What alcohol can teach us
The warnings from the leaders of the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL) were cruel; an overnight ban on gambling sponsors could be extremely damaging to the finances of football clubs.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters was unequivocal in his testimony to a UK government inquiry in November into the matter; there “should not be a ban on sponsorship,” he said.
EFL President Rick Parry went further in a interview with the newspaper, weighing on the debate on the link with problem gambling.
“Convince us of the merits of the argument on the evidence base and then we will engage in debate because frankly we haven’t seen any,” he said ahead of a UK government review that could see new, stricter rules on betting partnerships. .
“We will be eager to submit evidence, as it has to be an evidence-based examination rather than an emotional examination.”
Many disagree with Parry’s opinion, including Carolyn Harris MP, one of the politicians who has looked into the matter on behalf of the UK government.
“Evidence suggests that the amount of gambling advertising creates a familiarity and acceptability that everyone plays and that gambling advertising has a cumulative effect over time,” she said. stated in response to Parry’s comments.
“We have been successful in ending tobacco sponsorship and sports have found sponsors elsewhere. The government must work with the EFL to end football sponsorship of gambling and examine the merits of all funding options. ”
Earlier this month, a report in the Guardian The newspaper claimed that the sports sponsorship ban was one of the proposals the government would consider in 2021 as part of changes to gambling laws.
If such a ban were introduced, there would be an impact of around $ 150 million on English football clubs.
Eight of the 20 Premier League teams have gaming companies sponsoring the front of their shirts worth £ 70million ($ 96.81million), while around £ 40million (55, $ 32 million) are paid to England lower league clubs.
At a time when door receipts are non-existent due to the coronavirus, these sums are substantial.
As this debate comes to a head, it is worth looking at another controversial football sponsor; alcohol to see if any lessons can be learned from his involvement in the game.
The impact on children
A key criticism of those who would like to see a ban on gambling sponsorship relates to the impact on children.
The internet and cell phones have made it a lot easier for kids to play, and studies suggest this is the case.
Research conducted by the UK public body, the Gambling Commission, in 2018, found 450,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 playing and, shockingly, 55,000 are already addicted.
Campaign groups such as Clean up the game believe that football sponsorship should be part of any discussion about these types of outcomes.
The organization recently ran a campaign that openly the connection.
It is difficult to say that children are not exposed to play marks through football.
An analysis of children’s football stickers and cards, conducted by three British universities, found that 40% of collectibles featured in-game logos.
The disagreement centers on the link between exposure to the brand and the game itself.
As Parry and Harris’ arguments show, some people believe the evidence exists and others do not.
Alcohol and 90s football
As a kid who became an avid football fan in the 90s, I vividly remember being introduced to a host of brands from different industries seeing their names on different shirts.
From consumer electronics to cell phone operators and car manufacturers, I still associate certain products with football because of their presence on the jersey.
The most controversial sponsors of this era are alcohol brands, or to be more specific beers.
During the 1994-95 season, many shirt sponsors mirrored the logos found on the beer pumps of a typical British pub.
The Blackburn Rovers were sponsored by McEwans Lager, Chelsea had Coors, Liverpool kits Carlsberg, Newcastle had Newcastle Brown Ale, Nottingham Forest sponsored by Labatt and brand Holsten from the Tottenham Hotspurs kit.
Not to mention the league itself known as the FA Carling Premiership.
I admit that even now seeing these marks brings a twinge to the warm childhood nostalgia. Does it make me want a drink? No, not really, but for other people I can see how it might help reinforce a craving.
The feeling I am describing is called a “Positive association”, which successive studies have proven to exist, and may have an impact on a younger audience in particular.
But making a positive association with alcoholism or heavy drinking is much more complicated.
The interesting thing about the alcohol sponsors is that they have disappeared from the Premier League shirts without any bans.
What happened to the alcohol sponsors?
It turns out that the 1994-95 season was the peak of the sponsorship of flight shirts by alcohol companies.
While English football has become a sport where the international market has much more wealth than the domestic alcohol sponsors, at least on the front of the shirts, have bitten the dust.
There are no longer any football clubs in the top flight with an alcohol sponsor, and since 2001 there are only two.
It just shows how the market can move away from something that looked like furniture.
One reason alcohol sponsorship has receded is because the Premier League football fan’s ‘profile’ has changed.
The stereotypical demographics of British men betting on beer is just one segment of the audience marketers seek to reach when they partner with football clubs these days.
Global supporters outnumber UK fans at most of the bigger clubs, and many come from countries where alcohol and gambling are banned or culturally taboo.
Finding products that appeal to a more diverse group of people makes business sense for a club that wants to expand internationally.
Savvy clubs will reflect on the cultural impact of having a gaming or alcohol shirt sponsor in key growth markets like China, India or the Middle East.
In some places, that name on the front could be the difference between a parent buying a shirt for their child and becoming a longtime fan or not.