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FA severs ties with Ladbrokes as betting sponsors get scrutiny

The decision of the Football Association to terminate a four-year, £4 million sponsorship agreement with betting giant Ladbrokes followed the FA’s board decision in May to sever relations with gambling companies.

UK Football’s ruling body decided, after a three-month review, that it could not in good conscience enforce stringent anti-gaming regulations for players and coaches if it was at the same time raking in millions to promote gambling firms.

The move came soon after the prominent case of Joey Barton and his outspoken critique of football’s potentially conflicted ties with the lucrative betting business, although the FA insists that its review was underway prior to his case reaching a settlement in April.

Barton, a veteran midfielder most recently with Burnley, was charged by the FA with making 1260 football bets over a decade, including 30 involving his own club, although he insisted he never wagered against his own club. He was banished from football for 18 months.

Former Man City defender Martin Demichelis and Jack Colback of Newcastle both recently got themselves into hot water for football wagering.

Last season, the lion’s share of Premier League clubs put betting company logos on their shirts. Sky Bet even is a title sponsor of the league Championship. Clearly, there is a financial dependency by many clubs on the betting industry for income. High Street betting brands are increasingly selective, seeking out only the largest and wealthiest teams to sponsor.

Those 10 deals of betting companies with Premier League clubs have a combined value in the neighborhood of £36 million – a 15% share of the roughly £240 million in sponsorships of all the league’s clubs. West Ham and Sunderland each earned in excess of £6 million each last season from gambling-related sponsorships.

Several of the wagering firms clearly see the Premier League association as a way of business development not only in the UK but in far-flung areas of Asia, Africa, and even in remote New Zealand, where powerhouses like Casino.com (find review here) have a fast-growing presence. Every single Premier League outfit has commercial links to at least one betting firm, even if not all are represented as logos on their shirts.

After a brief respite, William Hill re-entered the sponsorship game, signing lucrative deals with Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton. Less prominent clubs, but also Machester United, entered deals with casinos from such faraway lands as Philippines and Kenya, each of the foreign betting firms seeking to build their own brands by basking in the global glamour of showing off their logos on UK matches televised back home.

The wager of betting firms on sponsorships seems to be paying off. Online football betting pulls in some £400 billion in the UK and over £600 billion worldwide. Losing 4 million quid will not cause Ladbrokes to lose much sleep, let alone their shirts.

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