SPORTS

UK bookmakers and racing square off in game of sponsorship chicken

TAGs: british horseracing authority

uk-racing-bookmakers-square-offUK-licensed online betting operator Betway has signed on as new sponsor of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas tennis tournaments.

On Wednesday, the International Tennis Federation announced Betway would serve as international sponsor for both events through 2018. Having already begun promoting its wares at the recent Fed Cup final in Prague, Betway will enjoy prominent courtside branding at this weekend’s Davis Cup final in Ghent, Belgium.

In other sponsorship news, UK-listed betting operator Betfair has been confirmed as the new headline sponsor of the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park Racecourse. Betfair’s bounty came at the expense of UK rival 888 Holdings, whose 888Sport division was the previous sponsor of the event, and the switcheroo marks the first casualty in the rapidly escalating feud between betting and racing.

Last month, the UK’s two biggest racing groups and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced a plan to limit sponsorship opportunities to betting operators who met the BHA’s demands for financial contributions to racing. Such companies would be considered an Authorized Betting Partner (ABP). Betfair have met the criteria to become an ABP; 888 have not.

Further sponsorship shuffling appears imminent, as ABP holdout Betfred announced over the weekend that it was pulling its name off the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Haydock’s Sprint Cup. Another laggard, Coral, has reportedly said its sponsorship of the All-Weather Championships won’t be renewed when it expires on Good Friday.

Earlier this week, the Racing Post claimed that Ladbrokes was unsure about the future of its own Cheltenham sponsorship. Paddy Power, which has questioned the sponsorship ban’s compatibility with UK competition laws, has reportedly hit a wall in talks to renew its Gold Cup sponsorship.

The BHA said all existing sponsorship deals would remain unaffected until the end of 2015, but this window is rapidly closing. It remains to be seen whether Betfair and the other current ABPs – Bet365 and 32Red – are interested in snapping up their competitors’ discarded promotional opportunities. (Bet365 can definitely afford it.)

Racing has recently taken unprecedented steps to speak with a unified voice in the hope of pressuring the government to impose an alternative funding model to the annual Levy system. They’re now taking further steps to show betting operators that this time they mean business.

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