News breaking today indicates that Everton are not going to re-new their sponsorship with SportPesa at the end of the current season.
The African betting company have been the main sponsor of Everton since the 2017-18 season when they succeeded the Thai beer company Chang. It now seems that the Toffees have decided to sever their ties with them from next season.
This is news that might not have many Evertonians taking a lot of notice. After all sponsors have come and gone with often great regularity ever since this form of advertising was allowed for the first time in the mid-eighties.
I remember the Blues first sponsors way back in 1984 were a Danish meat company called Hafnia! They were then were followed by Japanese technology company NEC. Both these sponsors were on the royal blue shirts as Everton enjoyed their greatest era between ’84 and ’87.
However, back to the present and while it’s not the most compelling issue, I do think this is important news for several reasons.
First of all the sponsorship of gambling companies has become more controversial in recent years. Gambling divides people as to whether it is a good thing generally and there has been criticism for Premier League clubs to be financed and supported by companies making millions out of people’s desperation for a quick buck.
This is perhaps a little like when the shift against tobacco sponsorship began back in the nineties. I remember when I was a kid, many sports, such as professional snooker and motor sport, were sponsored by tobacco companies like Embassy and JPS.
But as smoking became less socially acceptable, whether that is a good thing or not, the pressure grew on these sports to seek other forms of financial support.
Although I’m not suggesting you should just immediately give way to current trends in what is considered ‘acceptable’, given the very high-profile of English Premier League clubs, it is important to recognise the power of such wider social and consumer trends.
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There is another reason why this news is though significant. The club will obviously be looking for a new main club and shirt sponsor ready for the 2020-21 season.
So could that sponsor be Megafon, one of the companies of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov or his USM..? In either case it would mark the ever-closer ties between Usmanov and the club.
It follows the announcement at the recent AGM, that Usmanov will be putting down £30 million odd, to claim first dibs on naming Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore docks. This would presumably be thorough his other company USM.
So it does seem that the Russian is becoming an increasingly important figure in the club’s future. This sponsorship deal would inject a new, massive amount of money while allowing him to maintain the right distance to ensure no problems with Financial Fair Play.