No-go for logo? What’s a bet this is all a silly waste of time
Why all the fuss about Cape Town City’s sponsors? Something to do with gambling or a personal spat?
As the Premier Soccer League’s legal spat with Cape Town City over the club signing a sponsorship with a sports betting company, SportPesa, drags into a second football season one has to wonder if it is even worth pursuing.
SportPesa won an award last week for the company’s role in sports sponsorship.
Yet the PSL continues on a seeming crusade in an arbitration matter that has not been able to have a date finalised since a meeting of the league’s board of governors on September 14 2017 decided to go that route, skipping a disciplinary hearing.
To recap, the PSL asserts that a resolution was passed eight years ago that no club would sign a sports betting company as a sponsor without permission until the league had carried out an investigation into the issue.
This investigation was never carried out.Bulgarian company SportPesa sponsors Everton‚ Tanzania’s Simba FC and Young Africans‚ Kenya’s Gor Mahia, Congo’s AFC Leopards, the Kenyan Premier League, and has a partnership with Arsenal.
On Friday night at the Sports Industry Awards in Sandton, SportPesa won the Best African Sponsorship (of Gor Mahia) and Pan-Africa Campaign of the Year (for taking Everton to play Gor in Kenya).
This has no relation to the PSL’s matter with Cape Town City. But it does seem to raise questions over the league’s reasoning.
The PSL has no specific rules prohibiting sports betting companies as sponsors, but it does require that clubs seek permission before signing such a deal.
City did not seek permission, signed the deal, and the team have gone on to wear the SportPesa logo on their shits. The league instructed City to discontinue wearing the logo. This raises a further charge of defiance, which could at least result in a serious fine, and at most expulsion from the league.But are there genuine grounds for the league to continue trying to block the SportPesa sponsorship?
It is not forbidden in the PSL constitution, just by a vague resolution taken almost a decade ago pending an investigation that was never carried out.
SuperSport United have had a 14-year relationship with betting company Phumelela, which sponsors the Pretoria club’s development and once was United’s shirt sponsor. This raises the question over why the same issue was never raised for them.
The obvious response would be that Phumelela is strictly a horse racing betting company, so there is no obvious conflict of interest with football. Still, there seems a principle involved.
City chairman John Comitis has said that, in denying sports betting companies as sponsors, not only are his club being barred a source of an income believed to be worth R10m a year, millions in potential sponsorships are being made unavailable to the PSL.In England last season a staggering 11 of 20 clubs had sports betting companies as sponsors. They included: West Ham (Betway), Everton (SportPesa), Crystal Palace (ManBetX), Newcastle United (Fun88), Swansea City (LeTou), Bournemouth (M88), Stoke City (Bet365), Burnley (Dafabet), and Huddersfield Town (Ope Sports).
But there have been concerns in Britain overt the conflict of interest this can represent.
In June 2017 the Premiership ended a £16m sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes after its first year.
The London Times reported: “The decision was the only logical option for the FA, which has been faced with a number of high-profile gambling cases, including sanctioning Joey Barton, the former Manchester City, Newcastle United and Burnley midfielder, with an 18-month ban for placing more than 1,200 bets on matches.”
There is also the issue of gambling addiction.
In November Labour deputy leader Tom Watson slammed the British government for missing a chance, in a gambling review, to crack down on a proliferation of betting advertising in football and in sport.
Watson told the Times: “The relationship between sports and gambling has been over-familiar and normalised for far too long.”He said there was “an arms race between bookmakers, with some football games now seeing one in three adverts before and during the match from gambling firms. But clubs have to play their part in tackling this hidden epidemic of gambling addiction as well.
“The penetration of gambling sponsorship onto football shirts and advertising hoardings throughout stadiums has gone too far. You see it all over highlights reels on a daily basis.”
If the PSL needs to probe the dangers in conflicts of interest and promotion of addiction of sports betting companies sponsoring football, then surely the league should finally commission and undergo its investigation suggested eight years ago.
City are a worthily ambitious team who have revived a 1970s SA football brand, attracted supporters in Cape Town (which is never easy), and instilled a hugely promising development programme partnered with 100 amateur clubs in their city.
To hold them accountable for signing a deal that transgresses a mere resolution, and not even the PSL regulations, suggests this being a more personal political issue between PSL chairman Irvin Khoza and Comitis than genuinely enforcing what seems a technicality.