EFL Chair Defends Soccer Right to Betting Sponsorship
English Football League (EFL) chairman Rick Parry has spoken out in defense of soccer’s right to reap the benefits of responsible betting sponsorship. Parry acknowledged the challenges in fighting addiction issues among players but pointed out that sponsorship has its advantages.
The issue of gambling in the sport was brought to the fore after Sandro Tonali, a Newcastle United midfielder, received a ten-month ban from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) due to a gambling addiction. This led to an investigation by the Football Association (FA) for possible breaches of betting rules in England.
The Big Step campaign, an initiative from the Gambling with Lives charity, advocated for empathy and support for players struggling with addiction rather than strict sanctions. They emphasized the risks of exposing young footballers to addictive products and the impact of sponsorship on their behavior.
Despite the controversy, Parry defended the EFL’s sponsorship deal with Sky Bet, arguing that betting companies have generated significant revenue for the sport and that it is only fair for some of this wealth to be directed back into sports.
Parry addressed concerns about the link between gambling sponsorship and gambling harm, emphasizing that there is no evidence to support such a correlation. He highlighted the EFL’s efforts to educate players on responsible gambling and acknowledged the challenges of eliminating gambling addiction entirely.
The EFL’s partnership with Sky Bet received praise from the UK government’s white paper on gambling reform as an example of a socially responsible agreement that other sports should emulate. Since 2018, Sky Bet has supported the EPIC Risk Awareness program, providing education to players and staff at all 72 EFL clubs.
Parry stressed the importance of responsible behavior and education while acknowledging the inevitability of some individuals being drawn to gambling. He also emphasized the need for rehabilitation and support for players struggling with addiction.
In addition to contributing £20 million to wider research, education, and treatment, Sky Bet pledged to commit £1 million a year to the Building Foundations Fund, supporting community organizations linked to the EFL clubs.
Overall, Parry emphasized the ongoing challenges in addressing gambling-related issues but underlined the importance of supporting and educating players, maintaining responsible marketing arrangements, and tackling addiction. Sky Bet’s partnership with the EFL has enabled the league to enhance its education programs and support community organizations related to the clubs.
The current week has been designated as an ‘EFL Week of Action’ to showcase the social benefits provided by club community organizations.