The Premier League is asking clubs to support the phasing out of shirt sponsorship by gambling companies in a last-ditch effort to avoid a government-imposed ban.
Sky News learned that the Premier League contacted clubs on Monday to propose a resolution that would see betting companies disappear from team shirts for the next three years.
Under the proposal, a voluntary ban would come into effect at the start of the new season but would allow existing deals to continue, provided they expire no later than the 2024-25 campaign.
The communication with the 20 Premier League clubs represents the Premier League’s most concerted effort to tackle a problem that has drawn intense political scrutiny in recent weeks.
Under Premier League rules, support for the proposal from at least 14 clubs would lead to its immediate acceptance. One club leader said they were only given days to respond.
Sky News reported late last week that the Premier League had proposed to the government that shirt branding could be allowed to continue indefinitely, although it was not clear whether this idea was part of Monday’s communication with clubs.
Another club executive said the Premier League had indicated the betting sponsorship ban was intended to be permanent, but that it would be subject to a clause allowing it to be lifted with two years’ notice in certain circumstances.
Perimeter advertising by gambling companies will continue to be allowed, according to one recipient of the proposal.
The issue is sensitive for the leading clubs in English football because so many of them have relied on income from the gambling sector.
Almost half of Premier League clubs, including Newcastle United and West Ham, were sponsored by betting companies last season, although the Magpies are likely to secure a replacement for Fun88 after the upcoming campaign.
Other shirt sponsors from last season included West Ham’s SpreadEx Sport, Brentford’s Hollywood Bet and Southampton’s Sportsbet.io.
The times reported last week that ministers had abandoned plans to legislate to ban the names of betting groups from appearing on football shirts and were instead seeking a voluntary agreement with clubs.
The Premier League is said to have told clubs on Monday that it believed this was inaccurate and that the Government would seek a legislative ban unless a voluntary agreement was reached.
A Whitehall source said there had been intense discussions in recent days about the terms of the voluntary agreement. This suggests ministers would back a deal if it is accepted by the required majority of clubs.
One football finance analyst suggested the big six clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – would be expected to back a voluntary ban as none of them have existing shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies .
However, the Premier League’s proposal, if accepted, would anger anti-gambling campaigners as it would not lead to an immediate and total ban on the gambling industry from maintaining a presence in the stadiums and on the shirts that compete in the most watched domestic football tournament in a world.
A wider package of gambling reforms is expected to be unveiled in a white paper in the coming weeks.
A DCMS spokesman declined to comment on the Premier League’s proposal but said last week: “We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws for 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age. We will be publishing a White Paper as part of a review of gambling legislation in the coming weeks.”
The Premier League declined to comment.