The Football Association has pulled out of a four-year sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes after just one year, following a board decision in May to cut ties with betting companies.
Driven by FA chairman Greg Clarke, the decision was reached after a three-month review of the governing body’s links to the betting industry.
The rationale for the move, which will see the FA give up a reported £4million a year in lost revenue, is that the governing body cannot enforce the strict anti-gambling rules for those involved in the game while earning money to help promote gambling.
The timing of the move will inevitably lead many to point to Joey Barton’s high-profile case and the criticisms he made of football’s confusing relationship with the betting industry, but the FA is adamant this review was in the offing before his case was settled in April.
In a statement, FA chief executive Martin Glenn said: “We would like to thank Ladbrokes for both being a valued partner over the last year and for their professionalism and understanding about our change of policy around gambling.”
Ladbrokes boss Jim Mullen said the company understands the decision and confirmed that the company would continue to work with the FA “to ensure the integrity and trust and of the sport is maintained for the fans of the game and the millions of customers who enjoy betting on it week in and week out”.
Barton, who most recently played for Burnley, was banned from all football activities for 18 months for placing 1,260 bets on football over a 10-year period, including 30 bets on games involving his own club.
The 34-year-old, however, never bet on his team to lose, lost money on his football bets over the period and gambled on lots of other sports, too, all for sums he could afford to lose. As a result, he feels hard done by and is appealing against what is effectively a career-ending sanction.
But the midfielder’s case is only the most high-profile of a series of disciplinary issues for the FA involving gambling.
Several other players, including former Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis and Newcastle’s Jack Colback, have run into trouble for betting on football, and last year non-league manager Nick Bunyard was given a three-year ban for betting against his own teams.
Professional football’s relationship with betting is hardly new – the gambling-based football pools are nearly 100 years old – but the links have become closer and more obvious in recent years.
More than half of the Premier League’s clubs had gambling companies as their shirt sponsors last season and Sky Bet is the title sponsor of the Championship, League One and League Two.
In response to the FA’s decision to end its commercial relationship with the betting industry, the Gambling Commission issued a statement to reassure customers and fans that the industry will continue to work with the governing body on “sport betting integrity issues”.