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Front-of-shirt sponsorship

What kind of businesses sponsor football teams in England?

• 15% of football sponsors are gambling businesses in the Premier League and the EFL

• Financial services is the second-most common sponsor, with 8 businesses featured on the front of shirts

Companies that sponsor football teams come from a wide variety of industries, including the automotive, utilities and food and drink industries. However, gambling is the most common sponsor across all four leagues. A total of 14 gambling businesses make up 15% of sponsors in English football.

Of course, gambling isn’t inherently dangerous and there’s no need for a blanket ban on betting activity. However, recent studies have revealed that people who watch football are inundated with betting messages and that many ads on social media platforms are indistinguishable from organic content. 

While it’s true that betting and football can coexist healthily, it’s also true that there are restrictions on advertising for products like alcohol and cigarettes. The Premier League has agreed to drop betting companies as shirt sponsors from 2026, but what impact will these companies have until that point?

Which league has the most gambling sponsors?

• Gambling sponsors are most prolific in the Premier League, where eight businesses sponsor team shirts

Our study identified 25 unique industries sponsoring shirts across all four English leagues

The Premier League has the most betting sponsors despite their commitment to dropping them by 2026. 40% of teams are sponsored by a betting company, with the next most popular category being financial services.

The FT estimates that the sponsorship deals of the eight Premier League clubs sponsored by a betting brand are valued at around £60m of annual revenue which the clubs would need to replace by the beginning of the 2026//27 season.

While it’s not straightforward to say that gambling sponsors influence viewer behaviour, the fact that so many businesses commit such a large amount of money to sponsor the teams suggests that they will see a return on this investment.

Front-of-shirt presence for gambling businesses is less prolific in the EFL. 21% of teams in the Championship are sponsored by betting companies, while only one team in League One has a betting sponsor.

However, the voluntary ban enacted by the Premier League is not required by any of the other leagues. Could this mean that betting companies aim their sights on teams lower down the leagues?

How much viewership have the teams with gambling sponsors had in the past year?

• 7.5m viewers will be exposed to gambling ads from front-of-shirt sponsorship in the 2023/24 season

• Betway has the highest advertising potential, with their sponsorship of West Ham worth £63.8m throughout the 2023/24 season

• Aston Villa, Sunderland and Everton’s sponsorships could all be worth more than £30m to their respective sponsors

The team with the highest average attendance is West Ham, with 62,466 fans at each home game. This means their betting sponsor is earning an organic viewership of almost 1.2 million viewers across a season for home games alone.

Using a survey by Mr Gamble, which found that the average gambler in the UK spends £70 a week and a further survey by Beating Betting, which revealed that 76.8% of football fans were gamblers, we were able to estimate the advertising value of front-of-shirt sponsorship.

Based on these figures, sponsorship could be worth more than £435m per season in gambling spending potential for in-person advertising alone.

These estimates are based on the physical attendance of matches and don’t consider how people watching at home are influenced. Viewership figures for streaming and TV are difficult to determine throughout the season but undoubtedly add millions to the advertising value for front-of-shirt sponsors.

 

How does the UK differ from other countries?

• Betting company Winamax sponsors two teams internationally – Le Havre in France and VfB Stuttgart in Germany

• Just over a third of the betting sponsors in the English Football League have headquarters in the UK

In contrast to the UK leagues, gambling is not a significant presence on the shirts of teams in other leagues.

Only the German Bundesliga and the French Ligue 1 feature betting companies as shirt sponsors – Winamax sponsors Le Havre in France and VfB Stuttgart in Germany while Partouche sponsors Montpellier in France. In the Bundesliga, this means that only 5.6% of team sponsorship is gambling, while in France’s Ligue 1, gambling represents 10.5% of teams.

 

Where do English sponsor companies operate?

 

Only 5 of the 14 betting companies sponsoring British teams are headquartered in the UK and three of these companies don’t currently have websites that can be accessed in Britain.

In addition to generating income from British audiences, these businesses are using sponsorship to attract the attention of overseas fans, with significant followings in the Philippines and Australia in particular.

What’s next for English football?

Experts from the University of Bristol believe that football viewers face “overwhelming and inescapable” betting imagery when watching the game. 

One study estimates that 2.3% of the population are problem gamblers but that these people contribute up to half of the industry’s revenue. The government estimates that the excess cost of supporting people with a gambling addiction also costs between £1.05 and £1.77bn.

While Premier League clubs have vowed to drop the remaining front-of-shirt betting sponsors over the next few years, gambling messages are still rife throughout the game. This ban doesn’t include sleeve sponsors, stadium sponsors or team partnerships. The English Football League is also sponsored by SkyBet, meaning gambling messages will change little once the shirt sponsors have been dropped.

There’s also the issue of social media advertising, in which many gambling ads are indistinguishable from organic content. These kinds of adverts are potentially more likely to influence consumer behaviour and could pose a higher threat to younger audiences.

However, the steps being made to distance football from this “overwhelming” imagery are welcome and will hopefully lead to a change in the gambling habits of football fans.

Methodology

All official partners and sponsors are declared on the official websites of each club.

Stadium attendance figures taken from Football Web Pages

To calculate AVE, we identified the potential percentage of home game attendees (76.8%) who would be likely to gamble based on the study by Beating Betting. We then multiplied this figure by the average UK weekly gambling spend (£70) from Mr Gamble.

Example – West Ham: (1,186,854 x 0.768) x £70 = £63,802,207

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