Betting On Investment In Sport

Sport is a gripping drama that can send fans into a rollercoaster of emotion, so we are lucky that this summer we will have the World Cup, the Ryder Cup, and of course the GAA Championship back on our TV screens. As fans we are passionate and loyal, so it makes sense that brand look to sport as a platform to share their communications because they know how far we will go for our teams and heroes.

In Ireland many of us look to England for our football fix. The Premier League is global, with some of the world’s top talent plying their trade with fans from every corner of the world tuning in. So, it’s no surprise to see global brands looking to get their logos on the shirts of the top teams. Just look at Chevrolet and its £53m per annum deal with Manchester United.

At the start of the 2017/18 season, 11 of the 20 Premier League teams presented the logo of a betting or gambling company somewhere on their match day shirt. Let's not forget other sponsorship tie-ins such as Stoke City playing their home games at the Bet365 stadium, or SkyBet as the title sponsor of the EFL’s Championship, League One and League Two. It’s clear to see that betting and gambling companies are deeply entrenched with football, and they see it as a vehicle to deliver their brand communications.

This made the move by the GAA even more admirable when in February the GAA Congress voted to ban betting companies sponsoring “any competition, team, playing gear or facility"  because they wanted to “enhance the moral standing of the GAA in Irish life and protect the integrity of our games”.

This move was overwhelmingly backed by the GAA Congress and by most notably Oisin McConville. The former Armagh footballer is one of the best-known examples in GAA circles of someone who has had their own personal troubles with gambling. At its worst, he claimed he owed roughly £100,000 and said the move “shows the GAA is standing up and doing something and making sure it is not something which becomes more infiltrated”.

In a world where professional footballers are often criticised for their antics on the field and their lavish lives off it, GAA stars are heralded for the commitment they show to their club and county, while also balancing the demands that come with their day jobs. And with the rise in popularity of the GAA outside of Ireland through Sky Sports, it would make total sense for a gambling or betting company to want to get involved. This makes it an extremely brave move by the Congress to turn down any potential money that could come from these companies in favour of the health and wellness of their members. Any links betting companies want to make with the GAA will now need to be indirect and extra clever, as well as adhering to the restrictions that are in place with the ASAI.

There have been many iconic partnerships in sport throughout the years with increasingly regulated categories such as alcohol and cigarette brands, e.g. rugby's Heineken Cup, Liverpool jerseys and Carlsberg, the Benson & Hedges Masters in snooker, and Marlboro on the Ferrari F1 car. These sports are slowly finding their form without cigarettes and alcohol, indicating that any 'entrenched' investment can be overcome. 

Does this move by the GAA herald the beginning of a new chapter in sports sponsorship? Will other sports bodies bet on a future without this type of investment? Will anyone give us odds on that?