Posted: Feb 1, 2021, 4:13 am.
Last update on: February 1, 2021, 04: 13h.
The UK’s proposed gambling reforms pose an existential threat to certain sports, the government has been warned.
Sports sponsor Barry Hearn believes that a general advertising ban on gambling would be a “catastrophe for every sports class”. (Image: PA)
A likely ban on advertising gambling related to sporting events represented the biggest crisis for idiosyncratic British professional athletes such as snooker and darts since the ban on tobacco advertising, industry leaders said. It would also affect football, boxing, and rugby.
Meanwhile, proposed “affordability tests” for players losing more than $ 100 a month would cost the horse racing $ 100 million a year. A number in the racing industry said this week that the threat of affordability checks was more worrying for the industry than the financial impact of COVID-19.
Tighten the controls
The government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) began its long-awaited review of the country’s gambling laws on December 8th, 15 years after the last major restructuring. The Gambling Act of 2005 liberalized much of the market and eased restrictions on gambling advertising on television.
However, activists believe the 2005 legislation went too far and are calling for tighter government controls to tackle problem gambling. The country’s betting industry is experiencing a backlash from the public and media, and lawmakers say they want to make sure the rules are “digital age”.
Sources have told multiple media outlets that the DCMS has a real appetite to ban advertising and sponsorship for sports gambling.
Half of the English Premier League teams and 16 of the 24 second-rate championship teams had betting companies as shirt sponsors last season. Many believe that it has reached saturation point and that it normalizes gambling for children.
How betting saved snooker
But Barry Hearn, founder and chairman of Matchroom Sports, which promotes boxing, snooker and darts, told The Daily Telegraph today that a general ban on advertising would be “a disaster for any class of sport”.
Hearn knows all too well the harm that suddenly stopping sponsorship money for a sport can do. In 2005, the ban on tobacco sponsorship pulled the prize money out of snooker and made the game uneconomical for its players. The crisis was short. By 2007, the sport was saved through newly legalized sponsorship for gambling.
Meanwhile, a ban on logos for football shirt sponsorship would likely hurt smaller teams the most if the pandemic has put immense financial pressure on the lower leagues.
“This is the worst time for football clubs, and sports clubs in general, to struggle with their revenue base during the pandemic,” an EPL source told The Times. “Most clubs agree with the general principle, but the timing is wrong.”
It is assumed that the implementation of such a step will be delayed by several years in order to give the teams the opportunity to look for alternative sponsorship offers.