London, Jun 3 (EFE).- Premier League clubs may soon have to ditch gambling sponsorships on their shirts as part of government plans to tackle the harmful side effects of the multimillion pound industry.
The sector, valued at 14.2 billion pounds (roughly $17.8bn) in the United Kingdom, has become deeply rooted in the English league with nearly half of the 20 top-flight teams sporting a gambling brand on their official shirts.
But the government has drafted a proposal to phase out such sponsorship deals with the industry, which poses a risk for some 3 million Brits.
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s executive aims to end gambling shirt sponsors between 2023 and 2024, the BBC has reported.
It would mark a tectonic shift for clubs that have become dependent on the industry, with an average economic blow of around 37.5 million pounds per team.
The plans, however, are being pushed in the name of public health.
Betting shops abound in the poorer corners of the nation, where gambling addiction is behind an average of one suicide a day, according to government statistics.
Currently, gambling brands are ubiquitous in the league and were splashed across the shirts of nine clubs in the 2021/22 season, including West Ham with Betway; Leeds United with SBOTOP and Newcastle United with FUN88.
Gambling sponsorships trickle all the way down the English football pyramid.
In the second tier, which itself is known as the Sky Bet Championship for sponsorship reasons, some 15 of the 24 teams sport betting companies on their official shirts.
The finances of England’s smaller clubs are much more fragile and suffered more acutely during the pandemic compared to the goliaths of the Premier League, who enjoy greater economic protection thanks, in large part, to TV deals totalling over 5 billion pounds.
For that reason the government is planning to start at the top before working its way down to the lower leagues.
The shift in the sponsorship rules has been welcomed by notable figures in English football such as Peter Shilton, England’s most-capped player, who presented a petition to the government signed by 12,000 who wanted change.
The 71-year-old former goalkeeper says he was addicted to gambling for 45 years.
Gambling on sport is much more prevalent in the UK compared to other European nations like Spain, where the industry already faces tougher legislation.
Any ban on betting brands on shirts would mark the biggest alteration in sponsorship rules in the Premier League since tobacco products were ditched in 2003. EFE