One of the major items up for discussion at this weekend’s GAA congress is the proposed ban on all forms of sponsorship by betting companies.
There are currently no inter-county teams sponsored by such organisations though Ladbrokes have in the past backed Louth.
The most prominent betting company with an existing sponsorship deal is Bar One Racing who are long-term supporters of Crossmaglen GAA Club in Armagh.
The motion to Congress has been proposed by Central Council and reads
“Sponsorship by a betting company of any competition, team, playing gear or facility is prohibited.”
One interesting potential downstream effect will be the potential treatment of plaques on facilities around the country crediting the contribution of National Lottery funding.
Lotteries run at a club and at a national level are a strong fundraising element for many units within the GAA and while there may be technical and legal differences between lotteries and perceived ‘harder’ gambling through bookmakers and casinos it does raise a question.
There appears to be a broad support for the restriction and follows on from substantial work being done in the area of gambling problems among players by the GAA’s own Player Welfare Committee and the Gaelic Players Association.
Commercial partnerships with betting companies are a substantial driver of sponsorship income in the two main betting sports of horse racing and football.
In the English Premier League, nine of the 20 clubs have a shirt front sponsor that is involved primarily in betting. All clubs have at least one and often multiple sponsorship agreements with the sector as well and the English Football League, covering the second third and fourth tiers of the game is backed by Sky Bet.
All this happens despite a blanket ban introduced by the FA in 2016 prohibiting any betting activity by any player, coach or official working within the sport.
Betting sponsorship is also deeply embedded within horse racing, a more traditional fit with Boylesports, Paddy Power, Unibet and others having their names attached to the biggest races of the year.
It is likely that the motion will be passed comfortably on Saturday, laying down a marker that many within other sports would like to see adopted but in which the argument of financial damage would be much stronger.
It should also be remembered that the sector is heavily regulated and legal in the same way as other activities perceived as being vices such as alcohol.
The sponsorship ban being self-imposed removes the need for any wider debate on a legislative ban, such as has flared regularly in relation to alcohol sponsorship.
In broad marketing terms, the big companies will continue to advertise and promote heavily in and around the sporting world. They will not now do so though on the shirts, stands or tournaments of the GAA.
Image Credit: Dan Sheridan, Inpho Photography