Rick Parry, chairman of the English Football League (EFL), has spoken out in defense of the league’s right to benefit from responsible betting sponsorship. He emphasized that there are “no magic answers” to eliminate addiction issues and called for empathy and support for affected players. His statements come in the wake of several betting scandals, shedding light on the contentious nature of gambling partnerships in sports.
The recent 10-month ban imposed on Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali due to gambling addiction has sparked increased scrutiny of soccer’s relationship with betting. Parry defended the sport’s association with betting companies, citing the industry’s significant financial contributions to sports since the 2005 Gambling Act. He noted that marketing agreements have channeled a portion of this revenue back into sports.
According to Parry, the EFL had conducted extensive research and did not find any correlation between sponsorships and increased gambling harm. He acknowledged that addressing the issue would be incredibly challenging, so the organization has focused on minimizing problem gambling through various initiatives. Parry stated, “Educating players is something we’ve been doing for at least the last five years, and we’ll continue to do more of that.”
Parry remained firm in his belief that individuals would gamble regardless of sponsorships and that prohibition was not a viable solution. He highlighted the importance of rehabilitation, as demonstrated by recent cases in Italy, and advocated for investing more resources in identifying and aiding players with genuine addiction problems.
In June, the EFL renewed its collaboration with operator Sky Bet, extending it through the 2028-29 Season. The partnership aims to deliver financial support to communities in England and Wales through the Sky Bet EFL Community Fund. This socially responsible model received praise from the UK government.
Parry reaffirmed that this partnership would not impact players significantly, as some athletes would still choose to wager regardless of sponsorships. He stressed the need for responsible marketing arrangements and improved gambling operator accountability, emphasizing their significant benefits for players and non-players.
These observations were made during the ongoing EFL Week of Action, highlighting the organization’s community work as all 72 member clubs unite to make a positive impact. Despite Parry’s reassurances, the debate over responsible betting partnerships and addressing addiction concerns continues to be a contentious topic in the soccer landscape as stakeholders seek an optimal solution.