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Dutch Football Association opposing total ban on gambling companies' shirt sponsorships

The Dutch soccer association -KNVB, or Royal Dutch Football Association- stated Monday it is against the total ban on online gambling providers sponsoring sports teams, a move expected to be enforced by the government in January 2025.

The football association and professional clubs of the country have sent a letter to Frank Weerwind, Minister for Legal Protection, in a plea to change the strategy and try more targeted information and measures that could prove to be more effective than the proposed ban.

Online gambling became legal in the Netherlands in October last year, which quickly led to an avalanche of online gambling ads, raising concerns about gambling addiction and protecting vulnerable groups like young people. This prompted the government to announce a series of measures, with have now led stakeholders to reply.

According to the KNVB, a ban on letting online casinos sponsor sports teams “goes too far," the association said, as reported by NL Times. “With the intended total ban, the Cabinet is not looking further at alternatives to limit the risks of online gambling," the football body wrote.

Instead of properly addressing the concerns around problem gambling, the association says the sponsorship ban would result in much less income for sports teams, between 40 and 70 million euros a year, which could instead be invested in youth training and social programs.

According to the KNVB, the sports world is already taking various measures to combat the risk of gambling addictions and match-fixing. “The professional football sector takes risks surrounding online games of chance very seriously and wants to draw up more far-reaching rules and focus on more information," the association's letter reads.

Instead, the body suggested other less drastic measures such as not letting “role models” or influencers -like football players and coaches- appear in gambling advertisements; instead using them to warn about the risks of gambling.

Moreover, clubs could adjust their contracts with gambling providers to ensure that their ads do not cause moral or material damage, and exclude young people. They could also use their channels to inform supporters about the dangers of gambling addiction, the KNVB proposes.

The alternative to the total ban brought forward by the KNVB also suggests letting the football sector phase its own regulations on matters such as shirt sponsorship, boarding, and naming partners.

“An online gambling provider may ultimately be the main sponsor, but must give the place on a shirt to a social organization," the body said, as reported by the cited source. It also pointed out that the sector could also ensure that youth teams are not involved with gambling and phase out gambling companies’ mentions on signs and boarding.

The associated bill to limit advertising is set to be introduced in phases, with a ban on untargeted advertising coming into effect in 2023. This provision concerns ads that people have not actively shown interest in, such as when using search engines online to find gambling websites.

From 2024 onwards, online gambling companies will no longer be allowed to sponsor programs and events, with the ban on sponsoring sports facilities and shirts coming into force the following year. This implies current sports clubs have two and a half years to find new sponsors.

Weerwind has also announced a ban on the use of celebrities and influencers in gambling advertisements.


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