The English Football League has issued an official statement amid calls for a ban on gambling sponsorship in English football.
UK.- Faced with growing calls for the UK to follow Spain and ban gambling sponsorship in sports, the English Football League (EFL) has issued an official statement defending the relationship between football and betting.
The EFL, which has a partnership with Sky Bet, said in the statement that gambling has a long-standing connection with football and stressed that the body worked together with partners to promote responsible gambling.
It said: “The EFL continues to have an open and regular dialogue with all relevant stakeholders – including the government – regarding football’s ongoing relationship with the gambling industry to ensure its partnerships are activated in a responsible fashion.
“The association between football and the gambling sector is long-standing, with a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms of much greater benefit than that of a blanket ban of any kind.”
The EFL said that following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the gambling industry’s financial contributions to the sport were more important than ever.
It branded the government’s decision to keep football matches behind closed doors despite cinemas and theatres reopening as “frustrating and perplexing”.
Some teams have called on stadiums to be allowed to reopen to supporters with capacity restrictions in place.
The EFL said: “With over £40m a season paid by the sector to the League and its Clubs, the significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been, particularly given the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which is leaving many of our Clubs living on a financial knife edge.
“At the same time our members, who contribute almost £500m annually to the Exchequer, [have their] core income stream of ticket sales turned off indefinitely without any indication of a roadmap that will allow the safe return of supporters to stadiums, despite other sectors being able to welcome people through their doors.
“They are also continuing to meet their financial obligations in the absence of similar levels of support being afforded to other industries. The inconsistency is frustrating and perplexing.”
The EFL noted that players in all three divisions wear sleeve badges promoting safer gambling and that operators dedicate 70 per cent of match day publicity to safer gambling messaging.
There have been calls from the House of Lords and from the Commons’ All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related harm for a ban on gambling sponsorship in sport.
Such a ban would follow a move expected to be implemented in Spain this month.