Sport Business Summit 2018: Football Sponsorship In The Spotlight:

If you’re a football fan, you’ll for sure know which company is the main sponsor for your favourite team. You can’t avoid seeing the name: It appears not only on the players’ shirts but is advertised prominently around the club’s stadium. In the case of Liverpool FC, for example, it’s Standard Chartered Bank, who currently pay £30 million a year for a contract first signed in 2010, was renewed in May and will last until the end of the 2022 / 23 season. Like other Premier League clubs, Liverpool have additional sponsors , principally the Danish beer manufacturer, Carlsberg. The European Sponsorship Association estimates that over the past 26 years, around 6.5 million Carlsberg pints have been served at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium.

Does this mean that Liverpool fans also order the same beer when they go to pubs in the city? Probably yes: As was pointed out in the Nielsen Sports organisation’s “World Football Report 2018” issued to delegates at the recent Sport Business Summit held at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium from 10th-11th October, 51% of football supporters “would choose their sponsor’s product rather than other brands if the price and quality were the same”. This might also mean that supporters of Everton FC, Liverpool’s fierce local rivals, refuse to drink anything connected with Carlsberg.

There is, though, a limit to the amount of money fans are willing or able to spend on the products or services provided by their club’s sponsors. Many of them probably couldn’t afford to travel on either Etihad (Manchester City’s sponsors for £45 million pa) or Emirates Airlines (Arsenal’s sponsors for £40 million pa) or purchase a car made by Chevolret (Manchester United: £47 million pa) and do Chelsea fans really order from Yokohama (£40 million pa) when they need new tyres for their vehicles?

So why are so many brands prepared to finance Premier League clubs to such a massive extent? In the opinion of “”, it’s because they are eager to tap into the prestige of the game and realise there are vast potential benefits to be derived from the prospective millions of TV viewers and 212 territories of coverage around the world as well as the enhanced social media presence and online visibility. James Evans, a correspondent for “Football Today News”, has nevertheless noted that many people are questioning whether the role of sponsorship is becoming too dominant in a game which is increasingly lucrative in its global appeal and that many supporters resent the rebranding of both team names and entire stadiums.

There’s particular concern about the business sectors in which a large number of sponsors operate. On 30th July, the Guardian quoted a Press Association (PA) report that experts on “problem gambling” are disturbed by the growing number of football clubs that have sponsorship arrangements with betting firms and online casinos. This season, “almost 60% of the clubs in England’s top two divisions will have gambling companies on their shirts – nine in the Premier League and a staggering 17 of 24 in the Championship”. Tottenham are sponsored by AIA (Hong Kong / China: Insurance), Brighton by American Express, Southampton by Virgin Media UK, Cardiff by “Visit Malaysia” (Tourism), Watford by FxPro UK (Forex Finance) and Leicester by King Power (Thailand: Duty Free) – but most of the other Premiership teams have sponsors with direct links to the gambling industry. Among them: West Ham: Betway (Malta), Everton: SportPesa (Kenya), Crystal Palace: ManBetX (Malta), Newcastle: Fun88 (China / Isle of Man), Bournemouth: M88 (Gibraltar), Huddersfield: Ope Sports (Malta), Fulham: Dafabet (Malta), Wolves: W88 (Thailand), Burnley: Laba360 (Malta).

Professor Jim Orford of Gambling Watch UK has told PA Sport that he is worried by evidence that gambling is increasingly seen as a normal “part and parcel” of following and supporting one’s favourite sport or team. According to the Gambling Commission’s most recent statistics, highlighted by the Guardian, “There are 430,000 adult problem gamblers in the UK and another 370,000 children aged 11-16 who gamble every week”. The Premier League apparently declined to comment when asked by the Guardian if football is getting too close to the gambling industry, but “is understood to believe that it is for the clubs themselves to decide with whom they make deals”.

Sponsorship of course is not the only source of finance for the Premier League clubs. The Annual Review of Football Finance 2018 published by the Deloitte Consultancy has emphasised that the clubs also derive significant revenue from broadcasting sources: Under a deal reached in February, during the 2019-2022 “cycle” Sky Sports will pay the Premier League £3.6 billion for 128 domestic matches each season (£9.3 million per game) and BT Sport will pay £885 million for 32 domestic matches each season (£9.2 million per game). It doesn’t include international rights, for which Deloitte anticipates a “further growth in overall value”.

This doesn’t seem to impress the Daily Telegraph journalist, Damian Collins. In an article captioned “Money Is Killing Football”, he has declared that “Football is awash with broadcasting and sponsorship money and that has made a lot of people very rich and others very greedy”.





Filed under: Sports | Posted on October 30th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon

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