Football Sponsorships Under Scrutiny in Britain

Premier League football clubs could lose tens of millions in lucrative sponsorship deals with Asia-facing betting sites under new rules promulgated in the UK that require all operators taking bets from UK players to obtain UK licensing regardless of where they’re based.

The UK Gambling Commissioned has warned England’s Football Association about the dangers of sponsorship deals between Premier League clubs and unlicensed overseas gambling operations.

The reminder comes amid reports that a three-year “multimillion pound” deal between London’s Arsenal Football Club and Bodog may be called into question after it emerged that the Canada-based Web site is not licensed to advertise to British gamblers.

According to the provisions of the Gambling Act 2014, which came into force at the beginning of the month, all gambling operators wherever they’re located must have a UK license to market to British players.

Some say the requirement could cost the league as much as £90 million a year in sponsorship revenues.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton are among clubs that have or have had lucrative sponsorship deals with online operators that take few bets from British punters but benefit from the Premier League’s booming popularity in Asia. Until recently many gambling operators, such as SBOBet and 188Bet, paid clubs for perimeter advertising at home matches, often displayed in Asian languages.

The commission, however, said, “Commercial partnership arrangements between sports clubs or bodies and remote gambling operators who do not hold a commission license cannot, in our view, advertise their betting services without both making it clear in the product as advertised and in reality that betting is not available to those in Britain.”

The commission, moreover, said clubs could risk prosecution if their sponsors fail to prevent gamblers in the UK accessing their sites.

Last August, Bodog and Arsenal signed a deal to capitalize on the club’s growing popularity in Asia. Bodog says it does not advertise in the United Kingdom, although as part of the deal it has rights to develop marketing initiatives with the club, generate content with its players and use its data base of fans.

Arsenal, too, says it is confident its arrangements with Bodog are not in breach.