The UK Labour party has said it will prohibit gambling companies from advertising on football shirts if it formed a government. Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, claims there is a “hidden epidemic” of gambling addiction in the UK and that football must help combat it.

He argued, “Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”

In the current 2017/2018 season there are nine English Premier League clubs with gambling companies as their main shirt sponsor.

But Labour’s proposed ban on shirt sponsorship is more about posturing than any practical solution to a perceived epidemic. It would have little impact on problem gambling in the UK. 

Seven of the nine gambling shirt sponsors have little interest in UK gamblers. They have taken shirt sponsorship to get their brands television coverage in their key markets of Asia and Africa where EPL matches are broadcast. Most would not have bothered taking a UK gambling licence, were one not required to be able to advertise in the UK.

GBGC guesses that the average UK football viewer would not be able to say what kind of businesses “Letou” or “Mansion” were based on the shirt branding. If anything, politicians should welcome these sponsors – it might help UK viewers learn a few words of Chinese whilst they watch a match.