The English Football League (EFL) has reacted to proposals that would ban sponsorship deals with gambling bans, by expressing their opposition.

The UK government is considering the findings of a report by a House of Lords committee, recently published, which had been set up to examine the impact, both social and economic, of the gambling sector. The report recommended that the government bring in a ban on betting companies sponsoring sports teams as part of a series of measures aimed at tackling gambling-related harm.

The EFL, which includes football clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two, fears that many of its clubs could be financially vulnerable to such a measure, given how many of them rely on sponsorship deals with gambling brands. The Football League itself has a naming rights deal with SkyBet, which is set to run until 2024, while 17 out of the 24 clubs in the Championship also have shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies.

In a statement responding to the report, the EFL focused on the fact that many of its clubs were financially vulnerable, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated shut down, which led to the early conclusion of League One and League Two. The EFL pointed out that betting companies fund EFL clubs to the tune of more than £40 million every season, underlining what the EFL described as the significant contribution that betting companies make to the financial sustainability of professional football, which they say is as important now as it has ever been.

Although the committee’s report recommended an end to gambling advertising, they also stated that such restrictions should not take effect for clubs outside the Premier League until 2023. Nevertheless, it concluded that gambling advertising in or near sports grounds or venues should be ended.

The review by the House of Lords followed on from the commitment made by the government to review the 2005 Gambling Act, and at a time when many have been criticising the industry.

In its statement, the EFL added that it was happy to collaborate with the government on gambling reduction, but reiterated its overall operation to widespread gambling advertising bans:

“The League firmly believes a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms that is also sympathetic to the economic needs of sport will be of much greater benefit than the blunt instrument of blanket bans. It is our belief that sports organisations can work with government and the gambling industry to ensure partnerships are activated in a responsible fashion.”

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