‘We’re not sniffy about gambling’: Premier League’s Richard Masters

‘We’re not sniffy about gambling’: Premier League’s Richard Masters
The Premier League’s new Chief Executive, Richard Masters, has admitted the gambling industry needs more regulation as the debate over the prevalence of betting in soccer continues.

Masters, who was confirmed as the permanent head of the English top-flight in December after serving on an interim basis, told Sky News that the league was not considering outlawing betting entirely, but greater safeguarding measures needed to be put in place.

British government ministers have committed to reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act and are expected to tighten restrictions around betting companies involvement in sports, with The Times reporting that a blanket ban was also a possibility.

“We're not sniffy about the gambling industry,” said Masters, “The Premier League has never had a betting relationship, but it's our clubs that enter into shirt sponsorship.

“The whole area does need, I think, probably, slightly firmer regulation, particularly around the most vulnerable. But I don't necessarily think that the answer should be that clubs should no longer have betting partnerships.”

Masters statements come as bookmakers consider a voluntary ban on soccer shirt sponsorship and pitchside advertising.

Brigid Simmonds, Chair of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which represents 90 per cent of the betting and gaming industry, told the House of Lords' Gambling Industry Committee that it was “absolutely open” to reducing advertising around sport.

Asked whether her organisation was considering banning gambling logos from soccer shirts and perimeter stadium advertising, she said: “We are certainly looking at the whole issue of sponsorship.”

Shen then added: “We can consider this going forward, we are active in considering it.”

The gambling industry does seem aware of its need to self-regulate. The BGC says that the whistle-to-whistle ban has reduced gambling advertising on television by 85 per cent, whilst GVC, the parent company of Ladbrokes and Coral, has already withdrawn its sponsorship in soccer.

For the 2019/20 season, half of the 20 teams in the Premier League have gambling firms as their main shirt sponsor, earning them a combined UK£69.6 million (US$90.9 million). Even teams without betting brands as a lead partner have smaller partnerships in the industry.

Gambling’s influence on the English game is also felt lower down the soccer pyramid. In the second-tier Championship, 15 of the 24 teams have betting companies as their shirt sponsor, while the English Football League (EFL), which oversees the three divisions below the Premier League, is sponsored by Sky Bet. The organisation has described income from gambling firms as a ‘significant’ part of its financial model.

In addition, the Football Association (FA), English soccer’s governing body, was heavily criticised for selling online streaming rights to FA Cup games to betting companies, via a third party. The FA has said it will assess those relationships during the next rights cycle.

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