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Premier League halts gambling sponsorship ban vote amid Westminster turmoil


The Premier League has postponed a vote on a voluntary ban on shirt sponsorship by gambling companies as the political crisis in Westminster threatens to delay crucial industry reforms.

Sky News has learnt that the Premier League on Thursday emailed the 20 top-flight clubs, including Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, to inform them that a deadline to give their backing for curbs had been scrapped.

Instead, the proposals will be discussed at a previously scheduled shareholder meeting on 26 July, according to club executives.

The delay comes within hours of Chris Philp, the gambling minister, resigning alongside dozens of colleagues as they tried to force Boris Johnson from office.

Mr Philp had been due to unveil a white paper on gambling reform in the coming weeks, with the threat of legislation to eliminate gambling brands appearing on Premier League shirts still on the table.

One industry source said the delay might be interpreted as an attempt by anti-gambling campaigners to exploit the crisis which has engulfed Mr Johnson and his administration.

On Monday, Sky News revealed that the Premier League was seeking clubs’ support for a voluntary ban that would see betting companies disappear from teams’ shirts within the next three years.

Under the proposal, a voluntary ban would come into effect at the start of the coming season but would allow existing deals to run their course, providing they expired no later than the 2024-25 campaign.

One club executive said there was a wish for further discussion about the plans before being put to a vote.

Premier League rules mean that approval from at least 14 clubs is required for a vote to be approved.

An executive at another club said the Premier League had indicated that the ban on betting sponsorship was intended to be permanent, but that it would be subject to a clause allowing it to be overturned with two years’ notice in certain circumstances.

Perimeter advertising by gaming companies would continue, according to one of the recipients of Monday’s proposal.

The issue is a sensitive one for English football’s leading clubs because so many of them have become reliant on revenue from the gambling sector.

Almost half of Premier League clubs, including Newcastle United and West Ham, were sponsored by betting companies last season, although the Magpies are likely to secure a replacement for Fun88 after the coming campaign.

Last season’s other shirt sponsors included SpreadEx Sport at West Ham, Hollywood Bet at Brentford and Sportsbet.io at Southampton.

One football finance analyst suggested that the big six clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – would be expected to support a voluntary ban, since none of them had existing shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies.

Nevertheless, the Premier League’s proposal would, if accepted later this month in its current form, anger anti-gambling campaigners, since it would not trigger an immediate and complete ban on the gambling industry retaining a presence at stadia and on shirts competing in the most-watched domestic football tournament in the world.

A DCMS spokesperson said last week: “We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age. We will be publishing a White Paper as part of a review of gambling legislation in the coming weeks.”

The Premier League declined to comment.


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