A cloud of uncertainty
Newly-promoted English Premier League (EPL) side Fulham is eyeing a deal with gaming operator W88 despite a potential ban on gambling sponsors, as reported by The Athletic.
A familiar face in the EPL, Fulham is one of two league teams that have still not committed to a sponsor for the upcoming campaign. They have, however, briefly named W88 as their sponsor in the league’s 2022-23 handbook.
Ultimately, W88 was scrubbed from Fulham’s page, but there are still links between the two.
Fulham moves against the grain
Fulham’s apparent interest in W88 has caused a stir among its fans. As the West Londoners seek a deal that could bring them precious funding, especially considering the quality of the other 19 league teams, the league itself is moving towards outlawing gaming sponsorships. The United Kingdom government has also taken an anti-gambling sponsor stance but relinquished the reins to the league as political turmoil has turned its focus elsewhere.
Fourteen of the 20 league teams would need to agree on a ban to pass legislation
Fourteen of the 20 league teams would need to agree on a ban to pass legislation; seven clubs are currently bound to gaming operators, while Fulham and Nottingham Forest remain without main sponsors.
W88 is a UK-based bookmaker that dominates the Asian market specifically. The company was last tied to another EPL side, Crystal Palace, but their relationship ended in May.
Fulham is looking to replace its previous partner, World Mobile, who has been relegated to the kit’s sleeves and training-ground attire.
Opposition to gambling sponsorships
The Fulham Supporters’ Trust surveyed fans last year to gauge their thoughts on gambling sponsorship restrictions; 47% supported a league-wide ban and 46% said that they would be uncomfortable with an operator’s logo emblazoned on the front of their shirts.
“We know that many fans are uncomfortable with gambling shirt sponsors, and a significant number have told us they don’t buy replica shirts and other merchandise because of it,” the Fulham Supporters’ Trust told The Athletic on Wednesday. “With the likelihood of a voluntary ban on gambling front of shirt sponsors being agreed by the Premier League imminently, it appears Fulham, along with other clubs, are taking the last opportunity to get revenue from overseas gambling companies that don’t operate in the UK.”
Notably, the plan that the EPL is pursuing would implemente a three-year phase-out period before gaming sponsors were totally outlawed. With that being the case, lower-level teams such as Fulham would be able to use that window to secure as much outside investment as possible, as they already caused a stir with the cost of their tickets for the season-opener against reigning runner-up Liverpool.
Despite the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future of sponsorships, Everton also secured a gambling partnership in June. The club-record deal will promote crypto-based casino Stake.com on the Toffees’ shirts, training ground, and media backdrops. Over 20,000 Evertonians have already signed a petition protesting the union.
Any vote on the ban is expected to be delayed until September until the picture of UK gambling becomes clearer. Gambling minister Chris Philip was one of the many to follow prime minister Boris Johnson in resigning, and an upcoming white paper on gambling reform has much of the industry at a standstill: