On 2 July 2020 the Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry published its report with an emphasis on sports and gambling advertising.
The gambling industry currently spends in excess of £1.5 billion a year on advertising. Gambling advertising has increased significantly since the sponsorship of football shirts by alcohol companies has dwindled in recent years. With the 2017/18 season being the first time in Premier League history where there were no alcohol company shirt sponsors for any Premier League club. Football advertising then saw the emergence of advertising by gambling companies. The Advertising Standards Agency regulates gambling advertising under the umbrella of the Gambling Act 2005 and through collective regulation with the Gambling Commission and Ofcom. The Advertising Standards sets and enforces rules to ensure that gambling advertisements do not undermine safe gambling and are socially responsible. It is generally assumed that the increase in advertising is the main cause, of gambling-related harms. Gambling itself is also an addiction and can have a significant financial and mental health impact associated with it.
The Government set up a select committee and commissioned a review of gambling advertising in sport and specifically looked at football. Although there is a strong link between football and gambling, the select committee report and recommendations are clearly recognising the harm caused by gambling and taking steps to separate this long-standing relationship to protect individuals and the wider society.
The result of the review was that the gambling operators should no longer be allowed to advertise on the shirts of football teams or any other part of their kit. There should be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes.
Banning the gambling company sponsorship of football shirts and kits, and banning the advertising of gambling on or near sports grounds, could have a positive impact on society, but it would mean that gambling companies would no longer have an incentive to sponsor football clubs.
The removal of sponsorship would not significantly harm Premier League clubs, but it would have a serious effect on smaller football clubs. Some of those in the English Football League would risk going out of business without this sponsorship if they cannot find alternatives. This would be devastating, especially given the close link between some of these clubs and their local communities. The financial situation of some of them is precarious because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sport.
Recognising this, the select committee were of the view the clubs below the Premier League should be given until 2023 (three years) to adapt to the new situation. They would not be allowed in that time to enter into new sponsorship contracts with gambling companies, but any existing contracts could continue until they terminate, and clubs would have time to seek alternative sources of sponsorship.