InsightX COO and Editor in Chief, Justin Williams, was interviewed as part of an investigation by the Financial Times into the ownership of gambling companies which sponsor the Premier League.
Justin, along with other leading experts, added commentary to journalist James Sandy’s film which examined how some betting firms use a web of shell companies and obscure ownership structures to hide their true identities. This practice raises questions about whether some clubs have been unwittingly taking money from betting brands linked to illegal gambling operations.
We took part in this investigation to help showcase the risks of failing to conduct adequate background checks on sponsors, and as an opportunity to encourage more football clubs and other sports rights holders to perform enhanced due diligence.
The film reveals a pattern of these betting companies targeting Chinese customers within China where gambling is largely illegal but also where Premier League football is extremely popular. These companies use the league as an advertising platform to reach this vast market, making use of everything from shirt sponsorships and pitch-side hoardings where their logos are plastered across televised matches.
The investigation flagged up three main concerns:
Despite extensive efforts to uncover the truth, the investigation hit numerous dead ends, with many critical players remaining elusive. What the investigation did highlight however, is the need for greater transparency in sponsorships in the Premier League. Fans, clubs, and governing bodies should demand a clearer understanding of who stands behind these brands and how they operate. Only through transparency and extensive investigation can football, and sport, ensure that sponsorships are sourced ethically and adhere to legal and moral standards.