After a winter filled with spending, it’s been a volatile summer for Chelsea Football Club as the blues search for a new sponsor and prepare for a season without European football following the conclusion of its recent three-year £40m deal with the mobile network Three.
Chelsea’s search for a sponsor saw them take the unprecedented step of releasing a shirt without a sponsor.
Rumours were circulating that Chelsea could sign a front-of-shirt partnership with Stake.com however, according to reports earlier this week, the club has performed a u-turn amid fan backlash.
So what’s at stake for Chelsea moving forward when it comes to its front-of-shirt sponsorship and why was Stake.com met with such fan backlash? Those are the questions that will be looked at in today’s episode of iGaming Daily, sponsored by SBC Summit Barcelona, where Joe Steeter is joined by his Insider Sport colleague Callum Williams and the sponsorship guru himself George Harborne, Director at SBC Sponsorship.
Streeter began the discussion by questioning Todd Boehly’s new role as the Sporting Director of Chelsea.
Harborne explains the responsibilities of Todd Boehly’s new role and the misconceptions people have about a ‘Sporting Director.’
“I think it varies from club to club,” stated Harborne. “Ultimately, it’s a responsibility for all of the football activities that exist within the club. That’ll range from supporting the first-team coach and their ambitions of having the best environment for players to play in, through to recruitment and all the way down to the academy level.
“I think a lot of people default to the sporting director as perhaps being the person who’s buying and selling the players, but certainly, it’s a role that’s far broader than that. Any owner who wants to see a club progress, certainly with the level of investment that’s been made into a team like Chelsea, they’re going to have to be hands-on anyway.”
Williams discussed Chelsea’s Paramount+ deal and the club’s difficulties in securing a front-of-shirt sponsor.
“Chelsea has been seeking a front-of-shirt sponsorship since the Three deal expired this summer,” added Williams. “Stake.com was the leading contender for becoming Chelsea’s front-of-shirt sponsor, but they faced a fan backlash that hindered the deal.”
“The Paramount+ deal was blocked by The Premier League because it violated the deed of licences. This means that no club can have a shirt sponsorship with a media rights partner or a TV broadcaster that conflicts with the Premier League’s domestic and worldwide TV partners.”
Streeter noted: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a situation like that before, where competition laws or agreements stop a club from making a deal with another potential media rights holder.”
Harborne broke down the reasons why Chelsea FC failed to secure a front-of-shirt sponsor.
He contined: “The absence of a partner announcement for the new shirt is embarrassing; it is undoubtedly a failure on the club’s part not to have secured one.
“In the case of Stake.com, reports indicated that there were discussions around the £45m mark, which is an incredibly high amount considering what we know about the level of investment from betting operators in Premier League shirts. It has never reached such a figure, making it an unprecedented deal.
“In this new era of valuations for shirt sponsorships among Europe’s biggest clubs, we’ve never seen a gambling firm invest such a substantial amount, simply because the return on investment from these types of deals is challenging.”
Williams proceeded to discuss the backlash the deal received from Chelsea supporters’ trust, with 77 members voting “strongly disagree” or “disagree” with the use of an online casino or a betting company as the Premiership sponsor.
“The backlash mainly stemmed from the club’s involvement in problem gambling awareness workshops in November last year, as well as mental health awareness workshops. The members argued that such a sponsorship would undermine the club’s foundation work in these areas.”
The panel then rounded off the discussion by talking about how, from the club’s perspective, the look and appearance of the sponsor logo itself factors into their decision making, for example looking to avoid less aesthetically pleasing logos, or logos that have been prominent on other Premier League club’s shirts, and how this may affect fan opinion on front-of-shirt deals.
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