Wigan Athletic showing the way with shirt awareness
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Football’s relationship with betting industry sponsorship has been examined as part of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, though a potential ban was delayed as changes at the top of government saw the proposed White Paper on the subject pushed back.
Yet despite the two areas being so heavily intertwined, some clubs are using their front-of-shirt space to promote charities and work being done to support local communities.
Plymouth are one example of this and have worked with their sponsor, food manufacturer Ginsters, to create Project 35, a social action project that aims to tackle poverty in the local area.
The 35 represents the percentage of children in that area who are reported to be living in poverty according to pre-pandemic data and the Project 35 logo features on the front of the Pilgrims’ shirts this season.
Argyle’s head of commercial operations James Greenacre believes the response to this initiative has been “really positive” and has seen supporters engaging with the project, as well as volunteering their time to offer support.
“I think first and foremost what we’ve done wouldn’t be done without the support of Ginsters,” he said.
“By donating that airspace we’ve been able to put Project 35 front and centre, as a result of that we know we’ve sold more replica shirts this year than ever before because we’ve seen feedback online from supporters actually saying, ‘oh yeah I’d have never normally bought a football shirt, but I will this year because of what it’s carrying’.
“For us, by using the shirt and Ginsters allowing us to use the shirt, we were able to put Project 35 front and centre.
“It can be a taboo, social poverty, poverty in general can be a taboo subject for some – with this we’ve got supporters of all demographics now wearing the shirt, talking about the project, making a difference.
“People are buying the shirt because ultimately the more successful the club is the more we can afford to put back into the community.”
Latics, Colchester and Leyton Orient are three other clubs who this season have used their shirt sponsor space to promote charities and the work they do.
League One side Derby also announced earlier this month that the NSPCC would feature on the front of their first-team shirts for the rest of the season.
However, football sponsorship is a lucrative business and chairman of the EFL Rick Parry said last year that betting sponsorship was worth up to £40million a year to the league and its clubs.
This can be seen in the current season, where eight out of 20 Premier League sides and six out of 24 Championship teams are sponsored by companies linked to gambling.
Despite the potential financial benefits those sponsorships can offer, Greenacre believes that other avenues and opportunities have since opened for Plymouth by using Project 35 as a front-of-shirt sponsor.
He added: “On a commercial level we’ve seen what we’ve done here has driven more businesses and has led to more interest than ever in businesses partnering with the club.”