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SPFL hunts new title sponsor as Ladbrokes deal won’t be extended

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) is looking for a new title sponsor after incumbent Ladbrokes, the UK betting operator, decided against renewing its agreement beyond the end of the current season.

Ladbrokes will bring to an end its five-year association with the Scottish league body as it continues to adopt a strategy of reducing its visibility during football matches.

Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive said today: “Ladbrokes’ parent company, GVC Holdings, recently announced a reduction in the visibility of their betting brands during football matches, including within SPFL matches in season 2019-20.

“As a result, they have confirmed that their title sponsorship of the Scottish Premiership, Championship, League 1 and League 2 will not be renewed once the current agreement concludes at the end of this season.”

Ladbrokes first came on board as the title sponsor of the four Scottish leagues in 2015, signing a two-year agreement. That deal was worth £2m (€2.2m/$2.4m) in the first season, before rising to around £2.1m in the second season.

A one-year option covering the 2017-18 season understood to be worth in the region of £1.5m was then taken up, before a further two-year agreement was signed that extended the partnership to 2020. The annual fee currently paid by Ladbrokes is not thought to have reached the record sum paid by the bookmaker at the start of the agreement.

Ahead of the 2019-20 season, GVC announced that it would use some of its SPFL inventory, including branding on interview backdrops, static and LED advertising boards, to support GambleAware’s ‘Bet Regret’ campaign aimed at moderating the behaviour of young male gamblers.

The league’s composite logo worn on players’ sleeve was also adapted at the start of the season to remove the reference to Ladbrokes.

Despite these moves, Ladbrokes has continued to invest in activating the SPFL title sponsorship and recently launched its ‘Ladbrokes Social Club’ talk show on Facebook. The bookmaker also teamed up with the SPFL over the summer to launch the official Ladbrokes Premiership fantasy football game.

Mark Chambers, Ladbrokes’ managing director, remarked: “We have enjoyed a very positive relationship with the SPFL and all the clubs involved and would like to thank them for their support and hard work in making this sponsorship such a success over the last few years.”

In 2017, Ladbrokes involvement in backing top-tier football in the UK was lessened as the Football Association ended its £4m-per-year sponsorship with the bookmaker. The FA had come under increasing pressure over its stance on sponsorships with gambling companies given high-profile betting cases featuring players.

Along with the Scottish league, both Scottish cup competitions carry the name of a bookmaker. Rival William Hill sponsors the Scottish Cup and Betfred gives its name to the League Cup in a contract worth just over £300,000 a year.