In the name of charity

Aston Villa FC have just signed a three-year, eight-figure sponsorship deal with BK8, a gambling operator which is licensed in the United Kingdom but carries out its activities almost exclusively in Far Eastern countries where sports gambling is illegal.

By Philippe Auclair

It could have been hoped that, following the recent publication of the UK government's White Paper on gambling, English football clubs would have started weaning themselves off their dependency on the millions they receive from the betting industry. After all, the Premier League had taken the 'voluntary step' to ban all front-of-shirt gambling sponsorship from the 2026-27 season onwards – albeit allowing its clubs to carry on selling advertising space to bookmakers on their stadiums' LED boards and emblazoning the brands and logos of gambling companies on the sleeves of their senior team's jerseys beyond that time. Moreover, not a word had been said regarding the 'regional partnerships' which enable English clubs to monetise their names and their star players, whether they like it or not, by teaming up with mostly so-called 'Asian-facing' gambling operators away from the gaze of British regulatory bodies. 

Yet, some progress appeared to have been made, and it may be that in the not-too-distant future, Premier League clubs will turn to less problematic sources of funding; but right here, right now, in the summer of 2023, it is still business as usual in the world's most popular football league. 

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