FAI rules out gambling companies for main sponsor vacancy

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has decided against partnering with a gambling company as its new primary sponsor, in the belief such a sponsor would send out the wrong message.

The governing body for football in the Republic of Ireland is currently in need of a main commercial partner for its international teams, with mobile network Three having ended its sponsorship in December 2019.

Gambling firm Paddy Power was reportedly interested in taking over as the body’s main sponsor, having been considering the idea for many months in the latter stages of 2020.

But the FAI has now ruled out the bookmaker as a potential candidate, stating that their sponsorship would be unsuitable due to the negative issues associated with gambling.

Betting sponsorship in sport is one of a number of topics currently under consideration by the UK Government as part of its review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Half of English Premier League clubs would be affected by any change in legislation due to their ties with betting companies.

Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association voted to ban sponsorship deals with the gambling industry in 2018, while the FAI itself attracted criticism when announcing a partnership with African betting company SportPesa in 2019.

Appointed on 1 November 2020, FAI CEO Jonathan Hill was largely hired on the strength of his commercial acumen, with sourcing a major sponsor reportedly his main priority.

But despite debts of around €70m ($84.5m), the body does not believe joining forces with a bookmaker would be appropriate.

The Football Association (representing England) cut ties with sponsor Ladbrokes in 2017, although this seemed to come as a knee-jerk reaction to Joey Barton criticising the level of gambling sponsorship in the country.

Barton, at the time still a professional footballer, had been caught gambling on matches he took part in and appeared to be distracting people from his own misgivings by criticising the overall level of gambling advertising.

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