Football sponsorship has changed. Not too long ago, electronics giants like JVC, Mita Copiers, Candy, or Sharp were commonly found on the chests of the top division’s leading players. Then airlines and breweries started to muscle in. Even global insurance companies like AIG found a niche in backing major clubs.
However, as any fan has surely noticed, one type of business dominates the rest: gambling companies. It’s an amazing development. In 2005, only one team was sponsored by a gambling company (Middlesbrough and 888.com). In 2019, the number had risen to 9, making gambling easily the best-represented sector.
So who are these new sponsors, and is their rise a welcome development? Let’s get to know a few in more detail.
Firstly, Bournemouth have partnered with M88. Who are M88? Before its name appeared on football kit, the company had zero profile in the UK. Owned by Mansion, M88 dubs itself “Where Asia Plays”, so it’s potentially a smart move from the Cherries. By exposing their brand to millions of Asian gamblers, the team can start to build a name in huge, growing markets.
Everton’s commercial partner is another company with no profile prior to joining the Premier League gravy train. Interestingly, it’s probably the first Kenyan company to sponsor an English side, although the shareholders are mainly from the USA, Italy, and Bulgaria. It’s not making many East Africans rich, but the company does run a huge variety of spors leagues in Kenya.
Crystal Palace has partnered with another relative unknown bran. A criticized decision by some, as . ManBetX has certainly been generous with the cash and has also tied up a deal with Real Madrid. Owned by the same people as M88, the company’s UK site is a basic gambling affair with a Maltese registration – a theme among Premiership sponsors.
By sponsoring Fulham, Dafabet may have made a poor footballing decision, but associating with the Cottagers has put another unknown onto the gambling map. Based in the Phillipines (another first for the EPL), Dafabet represents another Asian specialist, although one where you can bet on Gaelic Football.
What’s missing from the Premier League’s gambling sponsors?
These newcomers are registered across the world, offering ways for clubs to raise awareness in target markets. At the same time, sponsoring a team gives foreign betting sites a way into the UK market, and a few footie fans will definitely have given ManBetX or Dafabet a try as a result.
But where is this leading? Interestingly, online casino sites are yet to enter the fray, and they could well be next. Only Fun88 and Laba360 really offer proper online casino games for football fans, and there are plenty of UK casino sites, new brands like Dreamz Casino and old ones like Casumo or Mr. Green, yet to sponsor a side. So expect them to appear in greater numbers.
Far from representing a peak in gambling sponsorship, the truth is that the phenomenon could grow. As society gambles more using smartphones across the globe, the links between casinos and football can only get stronger.