Italian football leagues concerned over gambling ads ban

News on 6 Jul 2018

Italy’s top football league, the Lega Series A, has expressed deep concern over the Italian coalition government’s moves to introduce an almost total ban on gambling advertising and sponsorships at the beginning of next year (see previous reports).

The league says the ban will have a direct impact on sport and points out that more than half the Italian clubs in Serie A have sponsorship deals with betting companies.

“In highlighting the clear disparity compared to other countries in Europe and the world, where such bans don’t exist, and showing the negative consequences of such a measure, the Lega Serie A points out that in the 2017-18 season 12 top-flight clubs had a partnership agreement with companies from the betting sector,” the league said in a statement Thursday, claiming that clubs stand to lose millions of Euros in sponsorship support.

Further losses will be sustained through the impact of the ban on lucrative media rights agreements, the statement observes.

Serie A’s governing body pointed to the success of the English Premier League, which it said is the benchmark for its ability to generate resources for the sport, noting that 45 percent of clubs have a gaming firm as a shirt sponsor and in all the stadiums, on screens pitch-side there is advertising from betting companies.

“Prohibiting the firms from this sector to invest in advertising in our country would bring competitive disadvantages to Italian clubs, directing abroad advertising budgets meant for our teams,” the Lega Series A statement claims, observing that it is prepared to discuss the issue  in the hope that amendments can be made to the government’s advertising ban decree.

Genoa president Enrico Preziosi was outspoken in his condemnation of the ban, which he said will only assist illegal betting in Italy.

“It’s madness,” he said. “It would be a huge blow for us and wouldn’t even resolve the problem it wants to face … They don’t understand the devastating effects there will be on football, where thousands of people work.”

The trade body for many of Europe’s leading gambling companies, the European Gaming and Betting Association has also weighed in on the issue, telling the Associated Press news agency that betting companies make annual investments of Euro 120 million to sponsor sports teams and leagues in Italy.

EGBA raised practical questions around the ban, such as how it can be implemented when foreign teams with a betting company as a shirt sponsor play in Italy. Gambling advertising will also clearly be seen when matches from other leagues are broadcast in Italy.

“We would also question the practicality of introducing a total ban on advertising as a result of the cross-border nature of the Internet and television,” said EGBA Secretary General Maarten Haijer in a statement to the AP.

“Italian citizens will continue to see gambling advertising, except that those ads will advertise websites that are not licensed in Italy.”

“One of the important benefits of gambling advertising is that it directs Italian customers towards those gambling operators who are licensed to operate and comply with the rules in Italy,” said Haijer.

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