Several Premier League clubs have struck lucrative shirt sponsorship deals with gambling operators as pre-season gets underway before the 2023/24 campaign.
Top-flight teams are free to sign commercial contracts with betting companies as the voluntary ban on front-of-shirt sponsorships does not come into force until 2026.
Aston Villa have sealed a three-year deal with Asian bookmaker BK8, while Fulham and Burnley have reached new agreements with SBOTOP and W88 respectively.
The deals have caused a backlash among fans, particularly in the case of Aston Villa.
Their new partner BK8 previously signed on with Norwich City in 2021, but the Canaries terminated the deal that same week after the operator was adjudged to have promoted its brand with suggestive and sexualised content online and via social media.
Villa’s contract with BK8 will last right up until the end of the 2025/26 season, which is when the front-of-shirt sponsorship ban will officially come into force.
In the UK, Prince William – also known as the Prince of Wales – reportedly disapproves of the BK8 deal. He is an Aston Villa supporter and said he was “not happy” with the agreement while in conversation with Gambling with Lives founders Liz and Charles Ritchie.
Their son, Jack, died by suicide at the age of 24 in 2017. He was addicted to gambling.
The Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust has also denounced the deal. In a statement, it said: “Though we acknowledge the commercial reality, we sadly feel the club has failed to listen to the legitimate concerns of fans about the role of gambling sponsorship in sport.
“The BK8 agreement is a cynical last-minute attempt to scoop the financial gains ahead of the voluntary ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsors.”
Elsewhere, SBOTOP has managed to retain a Premier League presence by teaming up with Fulham. They sponsored Leeds United last season, who were relegated.
Fulham commercial director Jon Don-Carolis said: “The coveted front of shirt sponsorship plays an integral part in keeping the club competitive through significant revenue.”
Critics on Twitter have suggested the Premier League’s phasing out timeline for shirt sponsorship has had the opposite effect by inadvertently “kickstarting a goldrush”.
Others, including fans of Leeds, have described the gambling company ban as “nonsense”. Leeds were forced to release SBOTOP from their commercial contract after being relegated.
Image credit: Aston Villa/Twitter