A group of UK lawmakers want the English Football League to can its partnership with Sky Bet because the relationship has “gone too far.”
The group, which includes MPs and a member of the House of Lords, is outraged by the revelation in September that some EFL clubs acted as affiliate marketers for Sky Bet, accepting a percentage of their fans’ gambling losses.
In a letter to EFL chairman Rick Parry, the lawmakers urge the league to end its relationship with SkyBet when the contract expires in 2024 and not replace it with another gambling industry partner. It also wants the league to end any legacy affiliate payments to EFL teams that are still in effect.
The EFL admitted to The Guardian last month that the affiliate scheme existed for six years, until the 2019-20 season. It ended when the league opted for a “clearer focus on safer gambling and engaging fans responsibly,” according to Sky Bet. But the company admitted that some clubs still received legacy payments as part of the deal.
The EFL comprises tiers two to four of English soccer, and does not include the English Premier League [EPL]. However, it’s likely that similar deals were in place with EPL clubs. If so, this has not been publicly disclosed.
The letter to Parry was signed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Foster of Bath, Labour MPs Dan Carden, Sir George Howarth, Kim Johnson, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and Zarah Sultana, and Ronnie Cowan of the Scottish National Party.
“We know that the largest perpetrator of gambling harm is not football clubs, it’s gambling companies who exploit the sport and fans for obscene profit,” they wrote.
The Sky Bet sponsorship of the Football League means that all 72 clubs are essentially forced to advertise gambling on their shirts, in their stadiums and on their websites – even if they don’t want to,” the politicians continued. “This is unacceptable and this latest development is the final straw in a relationship that has clearly gone too far.”
They note that last year, Sky Bet was fined £1.2 million by the UK Gambling Commission for sending 100 free spins on slots to self-excluded gamblers.
Sky Bet has the largest active user-base in the UK, and its growth has largely been driven by its relationship with English soccer.
Prior to its 2018 acquisition by the Stars Group and later Flutter Entertainment, it was owned by UK satellite broadcaster and telecom giant Sky, which for years owned exclusive broadcasting rights to the EPL.
The financial interdependence between gambling companies and English soccer has come into hard focus over the past few years. Meanwhile, clubs have recently been accused of financially exploiting their fans through so-called fan token partnerships and other dubious crypto schemes.
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