British soccer will avoid the ban on shirt sponsorship according to a report in The Times which claims that the government backtracked on the measure and instead, elected to seek voluntary agreements with clubs.
Backtracking on Radical Reforms
The report claims that the proposal to stop betting companies from signing shirt sponsorships with soccer clubs that was part of the proposed reforms was abandoned by the DCMS as the ministry chose to take a path of voluntary action and seek agreements with the clubs while keeping the ban as a measure of last resort.
In March, the secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Nigel Huddleston told MPs that the White Paper was almost finished and most likely to be released in May. The document summarizing the findings from the Gambling Act Review launched by the government in December 2020 was initially slated for 2021 but was delayed due to the political upheavals of the government.
Earlier this month, the release of the White Paper did not receive a final date yet again after Huddleston insisted the ministry needed more time to do it right as it is one of DCMS’ top priorities.
The vague answers provided by the DCMS secretary only confirmed concerns that the government subdues to pressure exerted by the gambling industry and was about to water down certain measures, including the 1% levy to fund research and treatment of gambling addiction and the controversial ban on shirt sponsorships despite being included in the reforms just weeks before.
Support from Soccer Clubs
The DCMS received support for the measure in April after 20 English Football League (EFL) and non-league clubs sent a letter to the government insisting there should be a prohibition on gambling shirt sponsorships to reduce exposure for vulnerable and underage people.
The letter written in coordination with the Gambling With Lives campaign group also suggested that betting companies are not the only ones willing to sponsor football clubs and there could be more socially responsible options on competitive terms with bookmakers.
The letter was the latest effort from campaigners seeking to raise public awareness about gambling harm and fearful that the radical reforms initially considered by the government are being second-guessed.
Also in April, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) revealed plans to introduce new restrictions related to gambling advertising effective October 1, 2022, under which gambling companies are prohibited from featuring prominent sports figures and famous social media personalities in their ads.
The presence of official team kits and stadia in betting advertising campaigns and content is also part of the prohibition that seeks to protect mainly underage people.