Anger over EFL Affiliate Deal with Sky Bet

The links between the English Football League (EFL) and Sky Bet are again in the news. Criticism is being made of payments that clubs are still receiving from an affiliate deal that was phased out during the 2019/20 season.

2013 saw a deal arranged by which clubs were rewarded if a customer registered with Sky Bet using a link on their own website. This saw them getting a direct cut of any losses the gamblers made.

The deal was phased out but it’s been revealed that some clubs are still getting payments from customer losses. The EFL contract with Sky Bet runs until at least the 2023/24 season and they say “all sign-up links via EFL Digital channels have been removed”.

This week the chairman of Accrington Stanley said that he didn’t know about the affiliate deal. He said: “Our income is nil and I would not let our staff encourage gambling.” He added that this highlights “the institutional bias on the part of the EFL in favour of big clubs.”

An EFL spokesperson looked back at the renewal of the contract with Sky Bet three years ago.They said that that saw “a greater focus on putting safer gambling at the heart of the agreement.” That was why the previous affiliate scheme came to an end.

The spokesperson admitted that some clubs do receive revenue from “legacy sign-ups that occurred prior to the new agreement.” However, “all sign-ups links via EFL Digital channels have been removed.” Just how many clubs have benefited from the affiliate deal and which are still receiving cash was not disclosed.

News of the affiliate deal hasn’t pleased campaign group The Big Step. Their founder James Grimes said: “It’s unacceptable that through an unhealthy league sponsorship deal, every EFL club is forced to expose their fans to addictive gambling products in the first place, let alone take a cut of their losses.

“Many of these fans will experience devastating suffering and some will die. That clubs directly profited from inevitable harm is a game changer in the fight to end gambling sponsorship in football. No one should accept that this is normal or safe.”

While there are calls for English Premier League clubs to end their sponsorship deals with gambling companies, little has been said about other clubs with such agreements. The UK government is hoping that Premier League clubs will voluntarily agree to end such deals but no decision has yet been reached.