UK bookmaker William Hill is ending its long sponsorship ties to Scottish football while embracing mixed martial arts.
On Friday, UK media reported that William Hill had decided to end its nine-year sponsorship of the Scottish Football Association’s Scottish Cup when the current season wraps up this May. The bookie’s sponsorship efforts generated over £9m in revenue for the league since 2012 but the hunt is now on for a new title sponsor.
The parties’ decision not to renew was reportedly influenced by Hamilton Academical manager Brian Rice’s recent confession to breaching the SFA’s zero-tolerance gambling policy, for which Rice received a 10-match suspension. Regardless of the negative publicity that confession generated, the betting sector is in what could be considered a full retreat from UK and Irish football ties.
Just to name a few recent examples, English Premier League side Everton FC and the Football Association of Ireland both kicked Kenyan betting operator SportPesa to the curb before their deals were through, and 2020 started with a proper tempest in a teapot over betting operators’ livestreaming English Football Association matches over their betting apps.
Last year, GVC Holdings’ Ladbrokes brand announcing that it was calling time on its sponsorship of the Scottish Professional Football League at the end of the current season. In 2017, the English Football Association cut its ties with Ladbrokes just one year into a four-year deal after deciding that relationships with bookmakers were inappropriate.
GVC has vowed to reduce its sponsorship of UK sport, including some highly visible shirt logo placements. Other operators have been trying to ride out the current rough patch by incorporating responsible gambling messaging into their shirt displays.
Not every sport shares football’s growing aversion to betting logos, as evidenced by William Hill’s new deal to become the exclusive gambling partner of the Bellator mixed martial arts competition. The deal, which will cover all of Bellator’s European Series events this year, officially got underway this weekend with Hills sponsoring Channel 5 coverage of Bellator’s event in Dublin, where Hills logo featured prominently on the canvas.