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Volume 26 No. 60
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MLS Clubs Now Allowed To Sign Sports Betting, Liquor Sponsorships

MLS expects clubs to "start announcing new sports betting and liquor sponsorships before the end of this year" after unveiling "sweeping changes to its commercial sponsorship guidelines," according to Rey Mashayekhi of FORTUNE. The new rules allow teams to "secure jersey and stadium naming rights sponsorships" with betting and spirits companies. The new rules "represent a loosening attitude toward liquor sponsors, who were until now prohibited from doing business with MLS clubs in a manner that beer and wine sponsors were not." The revised guidelines "do come with restrictions," as MLS will "prohibit youth-sized replica jerseys from bearing such sponsors, and will bar them from appearing on the uniforms worn by clubs' academy and youth players." The league also will "restrict players under the age of 21 from appearing in any alcohol-related advertising or digital content, and no players are allowed to appear in sports betting-related marketing." MLS will allow sports betting sponsors to "advertise in MLS stadiums and strike digital advertising agreements with clubs; use clubs' marks and logos in their advertising; deploy 'call-to-action' advertising encouraging legal-age fans to bet on MLS games; and buy advertising spots during MLS game broadcasts." The league's clubs also can now "establish in-stadium sports betting facilities, in connection with licensed gambling operators, in jurisdictions that permit such establishments" (FORTUNE.com, 6/26).

INTERNATIONAL APPEAL: ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle noted the aim of the changes is to "increase fan engagement as well as revenue." The sight of sports betting companies as jersey sponsors has "long been a staple of the sport in Europe." MLS Senior VP/Business Development Carter Ladd said that this connection overseas "paved the way for MLS to adopt the change." Ladd: "Having sports betting companies on the front of jerseys is part of the fabric of the game internationally. We want to be at the forefront of it here within North America and touch on the international relevancy of our sport" (ESPN.com, 6/26). Eight of 20 EPL teams last season had "gambling uniform partners." The NBA, the only other major U.S. league that allows ads on its jerseys, "prevents teams from selling that space to brands" in either the liquor or sports betting industries (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/26).