The English Football League is facing new trouble as the government is considering cutting out gambling advertisement revenue, a move that would inflict irreversible harm on the organization says its chief, Rick Parry.
Rick Parry Urges Government to Back off EFL Advertisement Deals
The English Football League (EFL) and the UK government are at daggers drawn with neither party using props. The government has pushed for tighter regulatory rules concerning gambling advertisement, a move that is unpopular with the EFL which is witnessing its revenue nadir as the covid-19 pandemic makes it impossible for fans to return back to the stadiums and a new lockdown now looms over the country.
The government’s anticipated review of the 2005 Gambling Act is expected to come with tight restrictions that would impact advertising revenue from gambling, possibly early in 2021. Should the ban clear, it would spell a financial apocalypse for the league’s already beleaguered teams.
Clubs are already struggling to stay above the water, and EFL chief Rick Parry has warned against enacting measures that would do more harm than good. In his official criticism of the government’s stated plans, Parry said that the timing couldn’t be worse.
With gate receipts gone, clubs have little way of maneuvering financially, leaving them cash-strapped and overly-reliant on advertising revenue, with gambling already shedding over £40 million each season across 72 EFL clubs.
“The situation facing clubs at the moment is pretty dire. Obviously, that is Covid related and it’s basically because the Government isn’t allowing us to earn any revenue from our principal sources.”-EFL chief Rick Parry
Parry argued that clubs must be helped out and allowed to survive. The priority, he said, was to see all clubs make it until Christmas. In the meantime, a survey has suggested that the number of active gamblers has declined by 7% during lockdown.
Stirring up a Fuss in the House of Lords
The United Kingdom has acted swiftly in the face of the covid-19 pandemic, and particularly insofar as gambling is concerned. Gambling companies agreed to halt TV and radio advertising early into the pandemic, putting consumer well-being first.
However, a House of Lords committee broached the topic of gambling advertisement in sports in July, arguing that all such deals would need to be officially phased out by 2023. A similar development just recently took place in Spain.
Yet, Parry remains skeptical as to the timeline suggested by the House of Lords. Uncertainty over covid-19 compounds the situation, as nobody knows how long the recovery process would take nor how soon that recovery could begin, he argued.
Labor MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Carolyn Harris has argued that there was mounting evidence that excessive advertisement caused gambling-related harm in young adults and even underage individuals.
Harris argued that children were growing up with a “sense of loyalty” due to their exposure to these gambling sponsorships, often displayed as signage on stadiums and team shirts. However, Parry has objected arguing instead that there was no evidence that this was the case.
He asked of Harris to put forth the data that undisputedly proves that gambling signage led to generations of problem gamblers:
“Convince us of the merits of the argument on the basis of evidence, and then we will engage in the debate because frankly we haven’t seen any.”-EFL chief Rick Parry
Parry said that messing with the free market was a bad idea and that, should the government be willing to pull the plug on multi-billion in sponsorship revenue, it should be prepared to offer an alternative.
Presently, Parry argued, there were not many companies who were willing to offer sponsorship to clubs. Parry drew another parallel where betting was dependent on sports, explaining that some benefit to sport should be drawn after all.
DCMS committee chair, Julian Knight issued a similar warning, arguing that football clubs are struggling and their survival depends on a quick recovery and lack of restrictive measures originating from the government.