English Football League clubs still receive a cut of gamblers’ losses as part of
the now-discontinued scheme, An internal document shows that members of the
Football League (EFL), comprising the 72 clubs outside the Premier League, operated
as “affiliates” for SkyBet. An affiliate is a middleman who encourages a gambler to bet
with a particular company, which then pays them a percentage of the money that
person goes on to lose, sometimes for the rest of their life.
The document states clubs were entitled to a “share of losses […] from accounts
registered in your club name to Sky Bet through our affiliate partnership”.
The EFL said the arrangement, which lasted six years, was scrapped at the start of the
2019-20 season but admitted some clubs were still receiving funds under the “legacy”
contracts and would continue cashing in until the end of the 2023‑24 season.
NSL understands that one League Two club made £5,000 from the deal in a year,
indicating potentially much larger sums for the best‑supported Championship teams.
Campaigners and MPs condemned the relationship, called on Premier League clubs
to reveal whether they have any similar deals and said the revelation should give
fresh impetus to government plans to reform gambling laws.
Whitehall sources have suggested a draft white paper outlining potential reforms, put
together under Boris Johnson’s leadership, could fall victim to a bonfire of
regulations under the new prime minister Liz Truss. But the shadow minister for
sport, Alex Davies-Jones, said the plans should not be scrapped, warning that
evidence of affiliate deals “raises some serious questions about the government’s
approach to gambling”.
“Despite promising much-needed reform, the government have failed to bring
forward their white paper and it is people across the country who continue to be
impacted,” she said. “We have an analogue approach to regulation but we live in a
digital world and the government can and must do more.”
The Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, who has been trying to ensure the white
paper is not ditched, described the arrangements uncovered by the Guardian as
“terrible”. He said: “That a football club might benefit from this runs against all that
they are supposed to stand for – support for their fans, for the people who go to the
SkyBet, part of the Flutter gambling empire, has sponsored the EFL for 10 seasons.
Sources in the gambling world have previously alleged that clubs have affiliate deals
with bookmakers, but this is thought to be the first time that hard evidence of such
an arrangement has come to light.
The Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who co-chairs a cross-party parliamentary group
examining gambling‑related harm, said: “This appears to be proof that football clubs
are exploiting their own fans, some of whom will be gambling addicts, by taking a cut
of every penny they lose to greedy bookmakers. The government must now step in to
loosen the hold that the gambling industry has on the national game.”
Harris said Premier League teams should now “come clean” about whether they too
have affiliate deals.
NSL LEARNT: The Guardian has written previously to every Premier League club, as
well as some in the Championship and Scottish Premiership, to ask whether they
operate an affiliate
arrangement with any gambling companies. Crystal Palace F.C., Newcastle United,
Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United said that they did not; the remaining
clubs declined to comment or did not respond.
The document seen by the Guardian appears to be an account of commercial
revenues made by Accrington Stanley through EFL Digital, a division of the EFL.
It shows that the club made no revenue from acting as a betting affiliate during the
fourth quarter of the 2021-22 financial year. The owner, Andy Holt, said gambling
addiction was a “disaster area for society” and that he only became aware of the EFL’s
affiliate arrangement this week.
James Grimes, who campaigns for an end to gambling sponsorship in football via his
group The Big Step, said evidence of affiliate deals in football was “a gamechanger in
the fight to end gambling sponsorship in football. No one should accept that this is
normal or safe.”
An EFL spokesperson said: “When the EFL and SkyBet renewed its longstanding
partnership for the 2019-20 season, we placed a greater focus on putting safer
gambling at the heart of the agreement. As a result, the previous affiliate scheme was