Earlier this year, ahead of the release of the White Paper of the Gambling Act in the UK, soccer clubs in the country showed support for a voluntary ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsorships. While the White Paper was released recently, major clubs in the country had already agreed to go through a transition period over the next few years before completely banning front-of-shirt gambling sponsorships.
That transition period, gave some room for clubs with existing deals or new short-term deals to complete them, through the end of the 2025/26 season, allowing the ban on gambling front-of-shirt sponsorships to be implemented with the 2027 season. Yet, while clubs vowed to gradually phase out such deals, new deals are still being signed.
Earlier this week, English Premier League (EPL) soccer club, Aston Villa FC, announced it entered into a new sponsorship agreement with the online gambling company BK8. Under the terms of the new three-year deal, the company was designated as Aston Villa’s main front-of-shirt sponsor, a move that immediately captured the attention of sports and responsible gambling organizations, stakeholders and even soccer fans.
BK8’s partnership with Aston Villa was noticed by the Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust, which issued a statement condemning the collaboration. On Thursday, the Trust said that it is unhappy with the club’s decision to join forces with a gambling company for the upcoming three seasons.
“The Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust is highly disappointed with the Club’s announcement of a Principal Partnership with BK8 as its front-of-shirt sponsor for the next three seasons,“
reads a statement released by the Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust
Scooping Financial Gains before Front-Of-Shirt Ban
According to the Trust, the club was contacted earlier this year by fan groups that joined forces for a statement, outlining the concerns of potential sponsorship with BK8. At the time, the joint statement warned that there are more than 400 gambling-related suicides every year in the UK.
Additionally, it said that millions of people are impacted by gambling harm and pointed to “BK8’s misogynistic marketing practices,” urging the team not to join forces with a gambling company for a front-of-shirt sponsorship. The aforementioned misogynistic practices the Trust referred to are old advertisements by BK8 that reportedly included simulated sexual acts by women.
The Trust said that Aston Villa “failed to listen to the legitimate concerns of fans about the role of gambling sponsorship in sports” and harshly criticized the new sponsorship with BK8. “The BK8 agreement is a cynical last-minute attempt to scoop the financial gains ahead of the voluntary ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsors taking effect from the 2026-27 season,” wrote the Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust.
The new sponsorship deal captured the attention of the charity Gambling with Lives, which called the deal “not only tone-deaf but also dangerous.” The charity warned that one person dies every day in the UK due to problem gambling. It added that sports fans include children which is why it is paramount gambling ads to be excluded from such events.