In a move to distance itself from the gambling industry, the Football Association (FA) has cut ties with Ladbrokes, a leading online betting and gaming company. The contract between the FA and the betting company was worth around £4m, a lucrative partnership for both sides. The move represents a blow to the sports betting industry and may lead to significant revenue losses for both sports betting companies and the FA.
Although the decision came as a result of multiple betting controversies, the Joey Barton case likely played the most significant role. The league recently banned Barton, a Burnley midfielder, for an 18-month period after he placed over 1,000 bets during a 10-year period in the league. Even more problematic, many of the games Barton bet on involved his own team. Some experts are saying that Barton lost over £15m as a result of his Football betting habits.
The Barton case is significant because it highlighted a double standard going on in the league. On the one hand, the league was punishing Barton for his suspect sportsbetting. On the other hand, the league was highly connected with sports betting partners. The Barton case was in many ways a catalyst for change and the driver behind the FA’s new attitude on sports betting.
In many ways, betting and online casino companies have become increasingly synonymous with football, which is a primary reason the league chose to end its partnership with Ladbrokes. In 2015, UK Gamblers lost an estimated £3.6b as a direct result of sports betting. During that same period, the sports betting expenditure went up to $815m, a 30.1% growth.
Another strong indicator of the popularity of sports betting is the fact that in this last season, over 10 Premier League teams placed betting company logos on their uniforms. Further, Sky Bet, a large online sports betting company, was a title sponsor of 3 divisions in the league.
The decision was made after a three-month review of the FA’s dealings with betting sponsorships and the partnership was officially ended in June 2017. Still, the FA has promised to work closely with companies like Ladbrokes in order to ensure that players and other staff aren’t breaking rules by participating in suspect sports betting.
Sports betting isn’t going anywhere, but the FA’s strong stance on the matter is being seen by some experts as a hit to the industry. Losing sponsorships means sportsbetting companies have fewer opportunities to advertise what they do and it takes away the sense of legitimacy the FA once gave them. For the FA, killing these sorts of sponsorships will certainly lead to revenue losses in the short-term and potentially in the long-term as well. It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few seasons.