While sports betting can be marketed across Britain, Scotland is particularly dotted with logos of betting operators. An SNP member of parliament wants to end that, calling on all professional football clubs to cut ties with operators.
It's almost hard to imagine Scottish football without sports betting being promoted around it. It is Ladbrokes Premiership after all. And William Hill Scottish Cup. And, indeed, the SPFL Betfred Cup. The two biggest clubs each have a gambling partner, dafabet for Celtic and 32Red for Rangers. Online gambling seems so embedded into the Scottish game that it's almost impossible to avoid on any level of professional football.
That's the problem – says Ronnie Cowan, the Scottish National Party MP for Inverclyde. He has called on all 42 professional clubs to disassociate themselves from gambling operators. Being the vice-chairman of cross-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, he urges clubs to sign the 'Football Gambling Charter'.
The goal is to sanitise the Scottish game to some extent. It's not that individual fans would be unable to grab a Betfair bonus or place bets on their club's upcoming fixture, it's about the prevalence of gambling in Scottish football and the sometimes murky associations it may have with officials. It's one thing for a fan to place bets, it's another when managers and players, for whom it's a strict conflict of interest, are involved.
In late January of this year the manager of Hamilton Academical Brian Rice was served a 10-match ban after it was proven he had placed a large number of low-value bets between 2015 and 2019, which is a violation of existing Scottish FA gambling rules. Rice apparently had no financial interest when breaching regulations, he is on the record as addicted to gambling. He had self-reported his wrongs to the Scottish FA.
Author of the Chapter, Ronnie Gowan has been fighting against the dominance of gambling in Scottish football for years. He's particularly worried about the impact it may have on young supporters exposed to branding and messaging associated with gambling.
It might be argued that football in the north of the United Kingdom needs the vital sponsorship deals, especially as it continues to be strongly overshadowed by English football. But the sole number of deals means each of them individually is not worth too much. Betfred is paying £300,000 annually for its League Cup naming rights. When Ladbrokes took up sponsorship of the Premiership in 2015, the deal was worth £2 million annually.
The sheer number of gambling partners also proved problematic for betting operators themselves. William Hill opted against another Scottish Cup extension because the football market was too crowded with gambling brands, prompting public concerns about the association between football and gambling. Ladbrokes has also announced it would not be extending its deal past 2020...