The operator will continue to collaborate with the EFL amid increased scrutiny of gambling sponsorship in football.
UK.- While the Premier League is to hold a vote on whether to introduce a voluntary ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsorship, the English Football League (EFL) is extending its long-term collaboration with Flutter’s Sky Bet. However, Sky Bet CEO Steve Birch says the partnership will focus more than ever on responsibility.
He says the partnership, which covers the second to fourth levels of English football and is now approaching its tenth year, will promote safer gambling. The slogan “Take Time to Think” will appear on clubs’ sleeve badges and on LED advertising, matchday programmes and big screen ads.
Birch said: “This has always and rightly placed safer gambling at its heart, while also establishing a framework that allows us to engage the millions of EFL fans and connect them with the teams, players, and communities that they passionately support. And if last year’s footballing drama is anything to go by, they are in for another treat this season.
“Back to full capacity following the pandemic, Wembley hosted close to 200,000 football fans across three exciting league finals in May, whereby two sleeping giants of English football – Nottingham Forest and Sunderland – were promoted from the Championship and League One respectively, with Port Vale coming up from League Two.
“With both attendances at, and viewership of, last year’s EFL finals and play-offs close to record highs, Sky Bet was pleased to have access to its largest sponsorship inventory to date.”
The CEO noted that Sky Bet has introduced collaborations with a range of responsible gambling bodies as part of its EFL deal. That includes work to promote the TalkBanStop initiative run by GamCare, Gamstop and Gamban. The company will also continue to fund its £1m multi-year support for EPIC Risk Management, which seeks to educate club staff and players about gambling-related harm.
It says it will deliver “a more refined programme” informed by lived experiences from people who have suffered from gambling harm, including football fans and their relatives.
Birch said: “These initiatives demonstrate how both Sky Bet and the EFL have pioneered what a collaborative and constructive partnership can look like between a betting company and a sporting organisation.
“As part of Flutter, one of the largest-listed sports betting and gaming companies in the world, we’ve been able to use these learnings to establish similar commercial relationships with leading sports bodies such as the NFL and NBA in the US and the NRL in Australia, while also developing standards around areas such as betting integrity.
“While these partnerships should not escape scrutiny, neither should their benefits be wilfully ignored. So, like the thousands of football fans cheering on their team this weekend, I’ll be supporting the EFL and our long-standing partnership, all of us hoping for another successful season.”
Last month, the campaign group The Big Step called for football clubs to end all gambling advertising. It says that “relying on clubs to self-regulate has not worked so far”.
The Premier League is to hold a vote in September on its plan to phase out front-of-shirt gambling sponsorship in an attempt to avoid a complete ban on all forms of advertising. The league plans to keep sponsorship in other places, including on shirt sleeves. The proposal will need the support of 14 out of the league’s 20 teams to go ahead, but most are expected to approve the proposal.