Thursday, October 05, 2006

Has the US burst an internet shirt sponsor bubble?

According to Andrew Culf in The Guardian, legislation passed in the United States to outlaw internet gambling and poker games has caused alarm at English football clubs and among sports administrators as the online gaming industry helped bring in £15 million for Premiership clubs last season. "There has almost been a stampede into sport sponsorship by the internet companies, trying to create global exposure for their business," he quoted Nigel Currie, director of the sports marketing agency brand Rapport. "Shirt sponsorship in the Premier League increased from £55 million to £70 million last season and it was pretty much on the back of the impact of the internet betting companies."

Middlesbrough were sponsored by 888.com before the Indonesian-owned gambling giant Mansion's attempts to succeed Vodafone at Manchester United transformed the picture. Although Man United signed up with America's largest insurance company, AIG, the involvement of the internet betting company swelled the price from £9 million to £15 million a year. Mansion switched to Tottenham Hotspur in a deal reported to be worth £8.5 million per season, about four times the sum the club received from its previous sponsors, Thomson Holidays.

With 32Red sponsoring Aston Villa and Bet24 sponsoring Blackburn, the internet companies have become a "hugely important factor" in the wealth of the Premiership, according to Currie, who is also chairman of the European Sponsorship Association. He believes the fallout from this week's move by US legislators could have a long-term impact on the UK market. "Everyone piled in very quickly because they needed to get their messages to key territories," he said. "It could evaporate in the future."

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