Everton FC Ends Sponsorship With SportPesa

Everton Football Club will terminate its sponsorship deal with SportPesa two years early, it has been announced in a statement. The Club has committed to cutting ties with the Kenyan gambling giant once the current season is over. SportPesa has sponsored Everton since 2017.

Edge of a football pitch with white markings and goal.

Everton FC is aiming to have new sponsor ready for next season. ©Nathan Rogers/Unsplash

A Move Away From Gambling Sponsors?

The news that Everton has planned to split from sponsor SportPesa will come as a shock to some. Since 2017, the club has benefitted from one of the most lucrative sponsorship deals in the Premier League, which was estimated to be worth £7 million a year. SportPesa was originally contracted to sponsor Everton for a period of five years, but that arrangement has now suddenly been cut short.

“This has been a difficult decision but one that allows us to best deliver on our commercial plan and to grasp the new opportunities now open to us.”

SportPesa’s sponsorship may have been valuable, but it was also controversial. The last few years have seen pressure from MPs and campaigners mount over the issue of gambling in football. An excessive number of gambling ads on the pitch have been blamed for the growing number of young men who suffer from problem gambling. Gambling ads are commonplace on team shirts, cladding and brochures.

Everton Football Club’s decision to break it off with SportPesa follows a “comprehensive review by the Club of its commercial strategy in line with its vision and future growth plans”. Denise Barrett-Baxendale, the club’s Chief Executive, led the review. At an AGM for the club in January, it was reported that the club would prefer a ‘different kind of sponsor’. Now it seems that Barrett-Baxendale has followed through with the idea.

“The Club would like to thank SportPesa for all of the work that has been done together. Our partnership has seen our first team visit Africa on two occasions, as well as former players and Club staff take part in numerous activations in the region. This has allowed us to grow our own footprint in Africa and further strengthen our special relationship with the continent.”

A number of factors led to the club ending its contract with SportPesa early. These involve the restrictions that apply to gambling sponsorship and plans to increase activity with other sponsors. Everton has a large number of other sponsors, including Umbro, Angry Birds, Monster Energy and Carling. Such companies benefit from advertising on team shirts, cladding and in match literature.

The surprise move comes shortly after Tony Adams, former Arsenal captain and campaigner, called on football bosses to cut ties with gambling companies. Adams, who is marking the 20th anniversary of the charity he helped set up, recently described gambling as an ‘epidemic’ in football. Sporting Chance is a charity that offers support for sports players and those in the industry suffering from addiction.

Adams spoke to the press about the main issues that Sporting Chance is currently dealing with. Out of the approximately 1,200 cases that Sporting Chance assisted in 2019, 653 involved footballers. 70% of addictions facing footballers are gambling related. Adams puts this down to the huge number of ads from football sponsors like SportPesa. “Ideally I would get the advertising out of the game because it does influence people. They spend fortunes on the ads for a reason. It’s because it works. It normalizes it and that’s the issue I have got.”

More Controversy for SportPesa

SportPesa was founded six years ago by shareholders from Kenya, Bulgaria and the US. The sports betting brand expanded quickly, and now has operations in Tanzania, South Africa, Italy, Ireland, the UK and the Isle of Man. Its success comes down to its extensive promotion of gambling in Kenya. In response, the Kenyan government toughened its stance on gambling and regulations. As a result, last August SportPesa lost its license in Kenya.

This incident might have blemished SportPesa’s reputation, but the betting brand still had the European market to fall back on. However, many European countries are also looking into tightening their regulations, in particular the UK. At the time, Barrett-Baxendale said little to denounce SportPesa. Addressing concerns over the club’s sponsor, she said “We value our developing relationship with SportPesa, who have demonstrated a strong alignment with our values.”.

Everton was SportPesa’s most significant UK football partnership, although it also sponsors Hull City, Arsenal and Southampton. Everton will commence looking for a new sponsor soon, in time for the beginning of the 2020/21 season. Judging by comments made by Barrett-Baxendale, it seems unlikely that the club’s next sponsor will be a gambling brand.

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