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Should Gambling Companies Be Allowed To Sponsor Sports Club

There is a growing trend of gambling companies becoming involved in sponsoring sports teams and competitions, but should it be allowed?

The concept of sports teams being sponsored by a domestic or global brand is nothing new. Given the money required to take their respective clubs to the next level, chairmen are aware that finding the best deal is a necessity, while the brands themselves rarely need a second invitation to get their name out there to a wider audience. However, the dynamics of sponsorship in sport has changed. There used to be a time when you would see a well-known electrical appliance displayed on the front of football shirts, or a mixture of cigarette and drinks brands being associated with a competition. More recently, that has changed to a wide range of gambling companies becoming involved in sport, a partnership which has been welcomed due to the rise in online betting. Both the sport and gambling industries are effectively benefitting off each other's backs, but should such co-operation between the two be allowed?

As well as it naturally providing punters with a greater chance of playing new slot sites online, a trend has been established where betting companies - not always from the United Kingdom - have being displayed on Premier League football shirts. Ahead of the start of the 2019-20 campaign, exactly half of the 20 top-flight clubs had agreed deals with betting organisations and while you may think that it nothing out of the ordinary, it is no coincidence that each of those 10 teams are not part of the perceived "top six". Clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool can afford to set their sights a little higher, but the mid-table and lower-end outfits have an interest in associating themselves with a foreign betting organisation. From a financial perspective, it is relatively cheap - anywhere in the region of £750,000 and £2m - but the standout positives come from both parties being able to widen their horizons and attract new customers or supporters. Regardless of a vast sum needing to be shelled out, they stand to make plenty of it back from the greater interest. Who can blame them, though? It makes a lot of sense.

Dominic Solanke in action for Bournemouth on August 2, 2019© Reuters

However, there is an argument that clubs should be steering away from incessantly involving themselves with gambling. While the demographic of people who gamble is less specific than it has been in the past and there is more legislation surrounding the industry, there are still aspects of the way that the companies are promoted that can throw open the door to younger people placing bets before they are legally allowed. In the modern-day football stadium, it is very rare that you are not provided with the opportunity to have a bet, in most cases due to the sponsorship which has been established. Even if you cannot place a bet in the concourse areas, you are seeing logos of the brand name on every wall heading up and down stairwells. The natural curiosity of supporters in their teenage years - and the relentless inclusion of adverts before kickoff and during half time on the television - will lead to questions being asked, and it only further increases the chances of under-age betting.

Questions are often raised about the linkup of betting companies and leagues. The partnership between the EFL and SkyBet is a glaring example, especially in light of the the new regulations introduced by the Football Association to prevent professional footballers from placing bets on matches which do not involve them. At a time when the governing body have no issues with handing out fines and suspensions to players who break their rules, one of the most well-known names in the industry is being thrown in people's faces by an organisation which oversees the second, third and fourth tiers. While their efforts to rid the game of any kind of match-fixing situations can be commended, trying to police a system which punishes 99.9% of innocent players when brashly welcoming such businesses into the sport is always going to be criticised.

Football should not be singled out, however. Darts is another sport which has followed a similar pattern to football as a result of its growing popularity, with the PDC having seven-figure deals in place as far back as 2014. There was a desire to capitalise on the boom in attendances and viewing figures, and it has paid off to such an extent where more and more names are fighting to get themselves involved. Despite having multiple major competitions in a year, it is rare that the same brand will sponsor more than one competition, partly because of the long-term associations which are already in place. The ramifications for the players is more prize money and more competitions to win that prize money. Matchroom Sport have put together a hugely successful business model which has taken the sport to levels which 15 years ago did not seem realistic, but there is little doubt that betting companies have played their part.

Will such partnerships in football and darts ever change? Probably, but only far into the future. While technology and social media is providing people with increasing amount of opportunities to bet, the same trends will remain in place, just with more people and with more money. Is it morally right? Perhaps not, but in reality, it is irrelevant.

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