FA Quits Ladbrokes Sponsorship Deal After Player Betting Controversies

Posted on: June 22, 2017, 02:22h. 

Last updated on: June 22, 2017, 02:22h.

The Football Association, English Soccer’s governing body, has severed its four-year sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes after only one season.

The FA announced on Thursday that it would be not only cutting short its deal with Ladbrokes, worth some £4 million ($5 million) per year, but also will be banning all commercial sponsorship deals between betting companies and the FA now and in the future.

Ladbrokes stadium sponsor
Ladbrokes will no longer be the official bookie of the FA, as English soccer’s governing body reassesses its relationship with popular betting shops. (Image: YouTube)

The relationship between the FA and gambling has come under increased scrutiny, due to several high-profile player betting scandals. The attention comes at a time when English soccer is getting more involved with betting businesses. (Currently 50 percent of Premier League teams have a bookmaker or other gambling operations as their uniform sponsor.)

Most recently, Burnley player Joey Barton was handed an 18-month suspension after he admitted to placing 1,260 bets on soccer matches since 2004. At 34-years-old, the midfielder says the ban on all activities related to soccer will effectively end his career.

Barton publicly criticized the FA on social media for failing to acknowledge its clear conflict of interest when it comes to gambling.

“If the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet,” Barton said.

Redefining the Relationship

FA poster "Don't Bet on It"
A poster from the FA reminding players of their mandate to not bet on the game. (Image: click to enlarge)

The FA said it would continue to work with bookmakers, however, recognizing their importance to the integrity of the game.

“We would like to thank Ladbrokes for both being a valued partner over the last year and for their professionalism and understanding about our change of policy around gambling,” said FA chief executive Martin Glenn in an official statement. “They play a key role in sharing information on suspect betting patterns and so help in regulating the game.”

Ladbrokes CEO Jim Mullen said he understood the decision and confirmed that the company and the FA would continue to work together “to ensure the integrity and trust and of the sport is maintained for the fans of the game and the millions of customers who enjoy betting on it week in and week out.”

Tip of Football Betting Iceberg

Following the Barton fiasco, the FA instigated a three-month review of its policy on commercial partnerships with gambling companies.

Soccer players were prohibited from betting on the sport in 2014. Previously they had only been barred from betting on games in which they themselves, or the team they represented, were involved.

But concern for the integrity of soccer prompted the FA to prohibit all players, managers, club employees and match officials from betting on any soccer-related matter worldwide.

Nevertheless, according to a BBC report from a booted football boss banned three years for placing bets, including some against his own team, the sport is “rife” with gambling among professional soccer players, with the FA review identifying 53 instances of serious gambling breaches between August 2014 and December 2016.

A sport integrity expert told the BBC that these examples are just the “tip of the iceberg.”