London Olympics Stadium Desperate for Naming Rights Deal, but Gambling Companies Not Welcome

Posted on: October 16, 2019, 06:28h. 

Last updated on: October 16, 2019, 11:00h.

The London Stadium — built on spec for the London 2012 Olympics, and now the home of EPL soccer team West Ham — is bleeding money, some £25 million ($32 million) per year.

London Stadium
The London Stadium is home to West Ham, which is sponsored by Betway. But despite its precarious financial position, the stadium won’t be doing business with gambling companies. (LLDC)

The stadium is in desperate need of a naming rights deal and has long been in search of a corporate sponsor prepared to part with millions per year for the privilege of affixing its brand name to the 80,000-seat outdoor arena in East London.

Despite West Ham’s players sporting jerseys emblazoned with the Betway logo this season – part of a six-year deal signed in the summer worth £10 million ($12.7 million) per year to the team — the Malta-based online sports book will not be considered as a possible stadium sponsor, nor will any gambling company, according to the stadium’s owner.

Gambling ‘Inappropriate’ for Olympic Legacy

West Ham rents the stadium from London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). Despite losing money every year since 2016, according to sources who spoke to The Daily Mail this week, LLDC has ruled out naming rights for companies from the gambling sector because it would be “inappropriate” for the image and legacy of the stadium.

The gambling industry contributed £69 million ($88 million) this year to the EPL in jersey sponsorship alone.

But while in the newly liberalized US markets there is much talk of the synergies between sports and betting, the relationship between soccer and the industry in the UK — a highly mature market — has become tainted by saturation.

Of the 44 teams in the top two tiers of English soccer, an extraordinary 37 are wearing betting logos this season, and there are concerns about the affect exposure to branding is having on children — that it’s normalizing gambling for a generation of soccer fans.

Seating Disaster

But LLDC’s efforts to find a mainstream sponsor have failed so far. Meanwhile, losses are expected to rise to £29.1 million ($37 million) next year for the venture, with the taxpayer picking up the shortfall.

Projections suggest the stadium is on course for a lifetime loss of £150 million ($192 million) by 2023 unless the naming rights are sold.

In 2016, the venue was set to become the Mahindra Stadium, after the Indian multinational car manufacturing company. But the deal fell through at the last minute. Then, in 2017, telecoms company Vodafone pulled out of a six-year deal worth $20 million.

The stadium’s operating losses have been magnified by the cost of converting from a soccer venue to a multi-use arena and back again.

It cost £1.9 million ($2.4 million) to make the stadium fit for baseball when it staged the recent baseball game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox – the first MLB game to be played in Europe.

Attempts to install retractable seating ended in disaster when the contractor went bust in 2015. The stadium’s seating is only partially modifiable, which has ballooned conversion costs from an estimated £300,000 ($384,000) per year to £8 million ($10 million).