The year of the empty shirts: The repercussions of the Spanish betting sponsorship ban

All over the world countries have written new, stricter legislations on gambling in sports.

The aim is to prevent increased vulnerability from the impact of the pandemic on people’s economy.

In Spain, this legislation even crossed into football.

By now the consequences of the Spanish government’s betting sponsorship ban on football have become clear, as several teams started the 2021-22 La Liga season without shirt sponsors, including giants like Granada and Real Sociedad.

Gambling legislation changes a worldwide phenomenon

All over the world countries have written new gambling legislation to prevent increased vulnerability from the impact of the pandemic on people’s economy.

In the fall of 2020, the Spanish state initiated its reform to ban betting sponsorships and gave clubs only one season to make appropriate adjustments.

However, partly due to the short time frame, and partly due to the pandemic-affected economy, many clubs were unable to find replacement sponsors.

This has resulted in a number of La Liga clubs starting the new season without shirt sponsors.

The argument behind the sponsorship ban was that the widespread advertisement puts vulnerable populations at a higher risk for gambling problems.

This was seen as an even more urgent concern as the ongoing pandemic hurt people’s private economies and left many, young and old, at home with lots of time to waste.

Though many bricks-and-mortar casinos were closed during lockdowns, popular games were still available and easily accessible, such as poker, betting, and slots online.

For sports fans specifically, this might have been viewed as an exciting alternative when going to various in-person sports events was prohibited.

Betting sponsors and global sports

Betting sponsors are not uncommon in the sports world. Prior to the ban, a majority of the Spanish professional teams had lucrative sponsorship deals with betting companies.

Even La Liga itself was sponsored by a betting company. Similar statistics can be in other countries, such as England’s Premier League where betting sponsorships are not yet banned but are currently being discussed.

There, however, they are discussing a three-season transitional period to give teams a fair chance to find new sponsorship deals.

The pandemic’s effect on gambling habits

There have been a number of studies on the impact of the pandemic on gambling, and there have been mixed findings.

Studies agree most casino players have maintained similar gambling habits, compared to pre-pandemic times, but people who were already classed as “engaged players” – players already spending more money and/or more time on gambling sites – increased their gambling routines.

Some studies have also found that younger people have increased exposure and engagement to gambling sites.