Analysis: EFL survey exposes myths about gambling sponsorship

By Tim Poole

During surveys or science experiments at school, teachers would go over methodology and sample sizes with a fine-tooth comb. If your experiment wasn’t up to scratch, you either failed or had to conduct it all over again.

Why, then, do the same rules not apply to those scrutinising the gambling industry?

All too often, UK politicians have completely fabricated claims, national newspapers have grossly exaggerated figures and researchers have based extrapolated data on minute sample sizes to promote their anti-gambling narrative.

So it’s funny to see the results when the English Football League (EFL) conducted a survey with 27,854 supporters – a strong sample size containing an objective, impartial crowd of many different ages. The findings showed an overwhelmingly positive outcome for the perception of gambling sponsorship.

A 71% majority of fans believed gambling sponsorship within football was acceptable during the recent survey. Of these, 9% found gambling sponsorship acceptable in all circumstances, with 62% deeming it acceptable with responsible gambling safeguards in place.

Just 25% were against football gambling sponsorship, with the remainder not sure. That doesn’t exactly scream anti-gambling sentiment, does it?

Importantly, of the respondents, 46% had placed a bet online within the last 12 months, with 13% of fans betting once a week. Only 2% of respondents said they wagered every day.

Even then, the EFL's report was keen to emphasise its responsible gambling partnership with Sky Bet, with the aim of helping that 2% and any other problem gamblers.

But the overall results were clear. There just isn’t the hatred for gambling in the UK certain sections of Parliament or the media would have you believe.

What these survey findings have done is expose the many myths flying around about betting sponsorship.

Coincidentally, Sky Bet was the operator on the receiving end of another positive gambling news story last week, as its appeal against an Advertising Standards Authority ad ban was deemed successful. Common sense prevailed on that occasion and it seems it will again on the topic of sponsorship.

Despite the toxic atmosphere surrounding so much of the UK gambling sector, operators have rallied this summer to increase collective sponsorship levels. Amid the myriad of agreements within English football’s top two divisions, 1xBet recently signed partnerships with both Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC, while Paddy Power entered a rare shirt sponsorship with Huddersfield Town.

If 71% of EFL supporters think there’s nothing wrong with such deals, what leg is there really for bookie bashers to stand on?

Granted, GVC Holdings itself has called for a ban on sponsorship, although many within the industry have labelled this move a PR stunt. A sponsorship ban would reduce both costs and competition for GVC; as the owner of some of the oldest and largest brands in the market, sponsorship is nowhere near as beneficial for the operator as it is smaller or newer firms.

The remainder of the industry however, stands unanimous. So too, it seems, does the public.

It’s interesting, but of course unsurprising, to see a lack of mainstream coverage for the survey's results. It will also be interesting to see if the usual suspects suggest the EFL’s partnership with Sky Bet has influenced the outcome – a question they wouldn’t dare asking when the results suit their own agendas.

Then we come full circle to sample size. Here’s a little tester for you: keep an eye out for anyone suggesting 27,854 replies isn’t a big enough collection of data to be reliable. It’s almost guaranteed those same critics will have previously relied on no more than a three-figure sample size.

Genuine research and statistics have become a bit of a rarity in mainstream coverage of the gambling industry. Here, we finally have some concrete evidence and it doesn’t look for the anti-gambling brigade.

Perhaps that’s why they don’t like using real facts and figures.


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