Australian A-League football club Melbourne Victory has officially terminated its contract with new shirt sponsor Kaishi Entertainment.
The move comes after Kaishi – which claimed to be a media agency based in Hong Kong – was exposed as a front company for offshore betting firm Kashbet.
Under Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act 2001, it is a criminal offence for an offshore gambling company to operate or be advertised within Australia.
The same rules apply under the partnership regulations of the AFC Asian Champions League (ACL), which Melbourne Victory is competing in this season.
The club officially launched the partnership with Kaishi on Tuesday ahead of its ACL clash with Korean side Daegu.
But after the announcement, fans immediately took to Twitter to point out the similarities between the Kaishi logo and the Kashbet or KD88 logo (as the brand is known in Europe).
KD88 is an Official Betting Partner of Ajax, AS Roma and Bayer Leverkusen, so the logo was already familiar to supporters of its partner clubs.
Photos then began circulate online showing the same “general manager” at both the launch the Kaishi-Melbourne Victory partnership and the KD88-Bayer Leverkusen partnership.
Kaishi’s homepage was also found to be little more than an unfinished WordPress blog with a stock image of a businessman described as chairman Yang Changheng.
The image was later exposed as a free download from ShutterShock.
Melbourne Victory dropped Kaishi from its shirt for the match against Daegu, but it said Kaishi continued to claim it has no connections with Kashbet (or KD88), despite the “similar” logos of both companies.
In a statement released today, the club confirmed it has permanently cut ties with Kaishi.
Melbourne Victory later confirmed that Chinese TV firm TCL will be its replacement shirt sponsor for ACL fixtures.