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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 09:46 GMT
Gaming probe risk to shirt deals
Blackburn player Shabani Nonda
Shirt deals with gambling companies could be banned
Football shirt sponsorship deals with gambling firms may be under threat from an investigation into whether they encourage children to gamble.

Under current law, it is illegal for gambling operators to target children with advertising.

The Gambling Commission is to look into whether the football shirt sponsorship tie-ups are by-passing these laws.

Middlesbrough, Tottenham, Blackburn and Aston Villa all have shirt deals with online gambling operators.

Global exposure

The UK Gambling Act is set to become law next September and the Gambling Commission is preparing regulations to cover all forms of gambling.

Sports Minister Richard Caborn told the Commons late on Thursday that he was aware of worries over the sponsorship deals with football clubs and that the Gambling Commission would be "consulting" on the issue in the New Year.

He admitted there are "concerns" about gambling website logos on football shirts.

SHIRT SPONSORS
Spurs: Mansion
Aston Villa: 32Red
Middlesbrough: 888
Blackburn: Bet24
Leeds: Bet24

Gambling firms have been particularly keen to strike deals with Premiership football clubs because of the heavy media exposure the Premiership attracts.

"Premiership matches are shown all over the world in over 220 countries," Nigel Currie, of sports marketing consultants Brand Rapport, told the BBC.

"It's a huge global industry the gaming industry now and the Premiership's an ideal way to promote themselves."

Labour MP Ben Chapman had expressed concern in the Commons about the football and internet site links.

Referring to what he called the "proliferation" of sponsorship deals, he said: "A big part of this is attracting customers, not only from competitors, but from those who have never gambled."

Mr Caborn said "regulation, not prohibition" would protect children from the "harmful effects of gambling".

The developments will be causing alarm at the affected clubs, as large sums of money are at stake. Tottenham's Mansion deal, for example, signed pre-season 2006/07, is worth 34m over four years.

Arrests

Any ban would bring the UK into line with France, where gaming companies cannot advertise unless they have a French licence.

At present, only two French betting monopolies have been awarded licences in France.

In September, Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger, joint chief executives of Austrian-based Bwin, were arrested before giving a news conference in France about their sponsorship deal with Monaco football club.

Monaco's shirts now carry the HSBC bank logo.




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