For the first time in seven years, young fans of Crystal Palace will finally be allowed to wear the exact same kit as their heroes from next season.
The club announced in May that, from the 2022/23 campaign, their new front of shirt sponsors would be car insurance company Cinch, marking an end to having a gambling company as their front of shirt sponsor since 2015. Palace had previously partnered with Mansion.com (2015-17), ManBetX (2017-20) and W88 (2020-22) for their kits, meaning that – in compliance with UK gambling advertising laws – kits sold to junior fans could not feature the logo of the club’s sponsors.
But in partnering with Cinch, Palace have now become the first Premier League club to ditch a gambling company from the front of their shirts ahead of the government’s anticipated ban on betting sponsors in the top flight. Pressure has been growing on authorities to cull the vast number of betting advertisements on show in the game, including pitchside boards, kits, stadium naming rights, club partnerships and more, with campaigners saying the extent of advertising in the game is at odds with the number of children watching.
READ MORE: Crystal Palace’s W88 sponsorship deal set to be hit by UK Government gambling review
Nine clubs – Palace, West Ham, Brentford, Watford, Wolves, Newcastle, Southampton, Burnley and Leeds – were all sponsored by betting firms during the 2021/22 season, but with the Eagles’ deal with W88 coming to an end this year the club decided to move in a new direction, no doubt influenced by the anticipated White Paper on gambling legislation.
The UK currently has one of the biggest gambling markets in the world, generating a profit of around £14.2billion in 2020 alone, with more than 50 per cent of the adult population of the UK taking part in some form of gambling in 2018. The harms associated with gambling are wide-ranging, too, with one report from 2020 suggesting that up to 2.7 per cent of adults in Great Britain were problem gamblers and that as many as seven per cent of adults, or 3.6 million people, have been negatively affected by someone else’s gambling problem.
Currently, every Premier League team has some form of gambling partnership, and with an average attendance in the top-flight at around 40,000 every week, there are ample opportunities to soak in hundreds of gambling advertisements on a matchday. James Grimes, who previously suffered from gambling addiction and is the founder of the campaign group The Big Step, told football.london: “It’s an awful freedom that has been stripped away from young fans. Children should be able to wear the same shirt as their parents and their heroes. For the last seven years, if you’re a Palace fan, you can’t wear the same shirt as Wilfried Zaha because of that gambling company on the front of the shirt.
“A lot of the arguments about gambling advertisements are about freedom and an adult’s freedom to place a bet. But where is the freedom for young fans to be able to wear the same shirt as their hero? Where is their freedom to go to a football game and not be encouraged to do something which is inherently risky, harms millions of people in the country and takes an estimated 409 lives every year?
“When we saw Palace announce this, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Fans have had enough of gambling advertising. If you’re a clever PR or marketing person at a club, then you need to tap into that and realise that the gambling sponsors are overwhelmingly unpopular. But while I’d encourage all football clubs to do this, I do fear it will have to come down to the government because football has had every opportunity to put people above profit, and it simply hasn’t done since 2005.”
One argument put forward in favour of gambling advertising is the revenue that it produces, though Grimes says even this can easily be debunked, especially in the top-flight.
He added: “The Premier League and football as a whole have been taken for mugs by the gambling industry because they’ve used it as a way to generate billions of profit by using its players and teams, and it only puts a tiny fraction of that money back into the game just to get more advertising and sponsorship which results in more customers and more gamblers.
“The only argument for having gambling companies involved in football is for advertising and sponsorship. There’s no other reason for them to promote their companies through football. It must only be the financial impact. But reports suggest that if you remove gambling sponsorship – and it can be done as Palace have just shown – it would be the equivalent of a 2.5 per cent cut in revenue. It’s not exactly an existential threat – football will be absolutely fine without gambling and advertising money just like it was before they came along.”