The EFL extended their headline sponsorship deal with Sky Bet until the end of the 2023-24 season in November last year and the relationship between football and gambling continues to blossom.
With much talk in the media regarding the problems that some players have had with gambling, it was said that the deal was announced at the worst possible time.
Hearts and Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty had urged football bosses to review its relationship with sports betting after confessing to a gambling addiction but, with the numbers involved, there was never any question that the Football League and Sky Bet would continue to be bedfellows.
The aim of any Championship side is to reach the Premier League and for that they need the best players available willing to play in the second tier.
That costs money and it has become apparent over the past 12 months that EFL clubs are now paying more and so any of the sponsorship money that can filter down to the clubs will be very welcome.
There is no question that the EFL’s showpiece division, the Championship, is as good as many of the top divisions of the lesser European leagues, and the way it is marketed and shown on TV is exceptional.
The Sky Bet deal, which represents a 20% year-on-year increase from the 2019/20 campaign on the current deal, will help to keep the standard high but league officials have been quick to respond to concerns over their links to gambling.
There has been a visible change in TV advertising of online betting sites over the past couple of years, with the ‘when the fun stops…stop’ line now both seen and heard at the end of the commercials.
Whether it has any effect on people with ongoing gambling problems is open to debate but the sites are seen to be doing their bit and by association, so is the EFL.
Betting and football have always gone hand in hand but the way that punters go about it has changed for good.
Yes, there are still those who enjoy a trip to the bookies to fill in their coupon on a Saturday afternoon, but betting online and on smart phones is now all the rage and it is, of course, possible to bet during games while at the stadiums.
Therefore it would be folly to suggest that the EFL should not have a tie-up with a major player in the market, as punters are mature enough to make their own choices as to whether or not to place a wager and would not be drawn to do so just because of the league’s sponsorship name.
There will be those that disagree but Richard Flint, CEO of Sky Betting & Gaming, feels they are putting out a positive message, saying: “The additional focus we and the League are both placing on responsible gambling will show that well run betting operators can play an active part in raising awareness of problem gambling.”