Newcastle In Hot Water for Kit BrandingJake Cooper | 26 Mar 2018
English Premier League football club, Newcastle United has been formally charged by the English Football Association (FA) for featuring the logo of gambling operator, FUN88 on its youth team’s official jersey. This is despite the fact that the Magpies already had the offending logo removed after it attracted criticism in January.
Newcastle has until 27 March to respond to the FA charge that the club was in breach of its kit and advertising relations by featuring the FUN88 logos on youth players’ shirts. This comes at a time when the entire English Premier League has come under scrutiny as a result of several clubs’ alleged promotion of gambling operators to underage fans.
Targeting Underage Fans
FUN88 was named the official shirt sponsor of Newcastle United FC’s first and youth teams in May last year. Among other things, this three-year, £150 million sponsorship agreement obligates both teams to feature FUN88 branding on their player shirts.
However, in response to a Sunday Times article criticising the promotion of gambling to underage fans, the logo was removed from the youth team’s jerseys in January. Newcastle, along with several other clubs, was also criticised for the promotion of gambling services on segments on its official website targeted specifically at underage fans.
The Evening Chronicle subsequently reported that all offending branding and advertising – including photographs of youth team players in branded shirts – had been removed from the website. Moreover, the club has announced plans to re-take all official photographs of youth players, this time wearing unbranded shirts.
The English Football Association has nevertheless proceeded with charging Newcastle United with breaching its kit and advertising regulations, which stipulate that the branding of services and activities related to alcohol and gambling may not be displayed on under-18 players’ uniforms.
An English Premier League Problem
Newcastle United is not the only English Premier League club to come find itself in hot water over gambling branding targeted at underage fans, particularly on official club websites. This is unsurprising as gambling operators are often known to sponsor EPL teams.
FUN88 itself has a long history of football sponsorships, starting with the Barclays Premier League in 2013, and including Tottenham Hotspur FC and Burnley FC in the years to follow. In fact, one of FUN88’s brand ambassadors is football legend, Robbie Fowler. Meanwhile, Everton FC signed a similar shirt sponsorship deal with sports betting platform, SportpPesa earlier this year.
Sponsorships such as these are intended to enhance the credibility and reach of the gaming operators and boost profits for both team and sponsor. The impact of negative publicity and official charges resultant of these youth team branding breaches, however, illustrate the PR risks involved in such sponsorship agreements.