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Volume 23 No. 13
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Prepare for impact: EPL offers example for U.S. properties

Those seeking a comparison to assess the economic impact of legalized sports wagering in the U.S. usually reference the English Premier League, since its lock on the European sporting consciousness and unparalleled global reach have attracted sponsorship money and franchise valuations for top clubs that even the NFL envies.


But if the EPL will be the model upon which the junction of American sports marketing and bookmaking is built, stateside sports fans had better prepare for a marketing assault.


Across the 20-team Premier League, the biggest buyers of marketing inventory are dot-com betting houses. Jersey sponsorships for the elite top six teams — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur — are priced high enough (an average deal of $48.9 million a year) that they are out of reach. However, nine of the remaining 14 EPL clubs have sold shirt sponsorships to bookmakers. More than 40 percent of the perimeter ad boards are bought by betting houses.


“Bookmaking is a very easy startup and potential profits are enormous,” said Phil Carling, Octagon’s managing director of football.


Added Ron Skotarczak, Madison Square Garden’s executive vice president of marketing, “It may get as big here as it is in the EPL, but that’s not going to be right away. The leagues are going to be very careful.”


The betting explosion has even become a political football. Britain’s Labour Party has pledged to outlaw betting companies’ use of shirt sponsorships. Accordingly, even in a land where gambling sponsorships are common as rainy weather, there’s a reluctance to talk about the issue. 


“I see the category getting quickly crowded and fractured,” said an EPL chief revenue officer, when asked to predict how the U.S. legal bookmaking market will develop. “But caution is necessary, too … You’ll want to make sure your partner in this developing market will be around in three or four years.’’


— Terry Lefton