Fulham FC signed a sponsorship deal with Asiabet33 as an official Asian betting partner for the current 2021/2022 season as Fulham competes in the Championship.
The gaming provider was established in 2017, and it reaches Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan, while also strategizing future expansions in other Asian destinations. The company is also considered a pioneer among the gaming technology providers in Asia.
The deal benefits both companies – for example, Fulham could potentially expand their fan base in Asia. Asiabet33, on the one hand, could start to set a stable foothold in Europe and also secure a reputable name for itself among its competitors by teaming up with the relegated Premier League club.
This is not the first time that Fulham has had a gambling company as a sponsor. Four of the last five sponsors were with gaming entities – Marathon Bet, Grosvenor Casinos, Dafabet, and BetVictor, which was the first during the 2013/14 season. According to a recent study, however, more than half of the club’s supporters are against such sponsorships, which to a large degree reflects the general fanbase sentiments.
The Beginning of a Toxic Relationship?
The sponsorship deal for Fulham was announced amid loud discussions about the future of such relationships between soccer clubs and gaming providers. Last year, a House of Lords committee recommended that all gambling companies’ sponsorships should be banned from 2023 onwards.
In March this year, several clubs initiated an official discussion on this subject – with Fulham being among them again. Burnley, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, and Wolves, which all have a betting company as a sponsor, have tried to reason with the politicians on this subject.
Back then, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said, “If there needs to be a rebalancing, that is fine, but we do not think there should be a prohibition on sponsorship of soccer clubs or other sports clubs, for that matter.”
The 192-page report from the House of the Lords issued in 2020 is quite blunt that it’s “time to act to reduce gambling-related harm.” The report targets many of the activities of betting companies and offers more than 50 recommendations. The general political sentiments in Britain are unfavorable towards gambling and see the curbing of smoking and the laws against the tobacco industry for the past few decades as a source of inspiration when it comes to the gambling industry.
The Price Tag – Is It Too High?
The influence of gambling companies on soccer clubs cannot be underestimated. In March 2020, EFL Chair Rick Parry warned of the “catastrophic” impact on finances if gambling sponsorship was removed immediately. According to him, the clubs will lose at least £40 million ($46.2 million).
Fulham, for example, will also pay a dear price if it loses its sponsor. For instance, for the 2018/2019 season, the club generated around £17.7 million ($24 million) in sponsorship deals. Even though this includes numerous arrangements, the sum gives a good idea of how much is at stake here. The average Premier League club loss is around £8.75 million ($11.88 million). Even though there are only several clubs with sponsorship deals with gambling companies, there are even more deals with side advertising around the pitch.
Correction: A previous version of the article wrongly stated that Asiabet33 would be a shirt sponsorship for Fulham and that Fulham was a Premier League club. That was incorrect. We are sorry.