The long-anticipated announcement from the Premier League has finally appeared – following a consultation process between the league, clubs and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Premier League clubs have voluntarily agreed to withdraw gambling sponsorship from the front of clubs’ matchday shirts. The voluntary ban will come into effect from the end of the 2025/26 Premier League season, meaning clubs will remain able to: (i) honour existing deals; and (ii) enter into new deals up until the end of that season. The restriction only applies to front of shirt advertising, so won’t prevent gambling companies from advertising on other areas, including shirt sleeves and on advertising hoardings.
This voluntarily ban has been agreed in the context of the government’s review of gambling legislation, which has been delayed multiple times since it was first announced in late 2020. By agreeing this restriction, the Premier League appears likely (for now at least) to have averted a government-imposed ban, which could well have been wider reaching.
So what does this mean for Premier League clubs, other football clubs and gambling companies?
Premier League clubs
Eight of the twenty Premier League clubs currently have front of shirt gambling sponsors. Those clubs will need to make sure that these deals come to an end or are amended to remove the front of shirt aspect by the end of the 2025/26 season. Any other clubs looking to take advantage of the remaining window will also need to make sure that any front of shirt arrangements do not stretch beyond the 2025/26 season.
Non- Premier League clubs
Whilst the voluntary ban only affects Premier League clubs, any Championship clubs with promotion ambitions should still take note and consider the impact of the ban when entering into any new gambling front of shirt arrangements. Any front of shirt arrangement with a gambling company would need to end if the club is promoted after the 2025/26 season, so these clubs should make sure that their contracts allow for this.
It will remain to be seen whether the voluntary ban has an overall net positive or negative impact on the bottom line for Championship clubs – will potential gambling sponsors look to invest more in the lower tier of the game as they are transitioned out of the top tier, or will the attraction of a top Championship club be affected by the inability to maintain a sponsorship arrangement if the club is promoted?
The Premier League’s announcement will clearly be a blow to those eight gambling companies currently sponsoring Premier League clubs (to the extent those arrangements were intended to extend beyond the 2025/26 season) or any other gambling company which had hoped to capitalise on the massive worldwide TV audiences the Premier League attracts by entering into a Premier League front of shirt sponsorship deal. However, that is of course only a small section of the gambling industry, and operators will remain, for now at least, able to advertise on other key inventory, such as hoardings and shirt sleeves as well as other leagues and sports.
Overall though, when this voluntary ban is looked at in the context of the many other additional restrictions being imposed on gambling advertising in a number of jurisdictions, we think the message is clear. Gambling operators must continue to engage with relevant stakeholders and voluntarily commit to socially responsible advertising to ward off future additional restrictions being imposed on the industry.