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Aston Villa facing backlash over Sportsbook BK8 sponsorship on their kit

English Premier League soccer club Aston Villa is currently facing significant criticism for its controversial sponsorship deal with sportsbook and online casino brand BK8.

Ahead of the release of the UK gambling White Paper earlier this year, soccer clubs in the country agreed to a ban on front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies.

The move held off a blanket ban on gambling advertisements which most expected to be included in the white paper. The soccer clubs were given a transition period until 2025 to end their front-of-shirt gambling sponsorships. This period will allow the clubs to complete existing deals or conclude new short-term contracts with the gambling company.

Despite this, Aston Villa recently signed a gambling sponsorship agreement with BK8 which will expire in 2026. According to the terms of the deal, BK8 will be Aston Villa’s main front-of-shirt sponsor, a move frowned upon by Villa supporters.

While announcing the deal, an Aston Villa spokesperson said, “Through this partnership with BK8 we look forward to exciting collaborations together that will help to grow both brands, particularly within Southeast Asia.”

The Big Step campaign spokesperson Will Prochaska stated that Aston Villa’s decision to enter the deal was proof that the UK government needed to ban gambling advertisements entirely.

“For Villa to promote gambling on the front of their shirts, following the Premier League’s acceptance that it harms fans, exemplifies the greed that dominates football, and shows why we need the government to step in to regulate gambling advertisements out of the game,” Prochaska said.

“Fans, including children, should be able to watch games without being bombarded by gambling ads. To ignore all of that for a few extra pounds is not just tone deaf it’s irresponsible.”

The Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust issued a joint statement concerning the deal in January when it was made public. The statement discouraged Aston Villa from signing the agreement and pointed to the increasing number of gambling-related suicides every year.

The Trust also called Aston Villa’s attention to BK8’s “misogynistic marketing practices.” Norwich notably ended negotiations for a deal with BK8 in 2021 over its over sexually provocative advertisements.

“While the club has acknowledged supporter concerns to the potential sponsor, we have not received any explanation or clarification of the deal. We remind them of their duty to protect fans from the harms of gambling and to not bring its name or reputation into disrepute,” the statement continued.

“Sadly, this incident is not the first occasion upon which the club has entered into a controversial sponsorship arrangement. It is unlikely to be the last unless the club urgently acknowledges the issues mentioned in this statement and, without delay, re-evaluates its agreement with BK8.”

Michael Gatt, BK8’s managing director, promised to set up multiple regional programs to engage with Aston Villa’s local and global supporters for the duration of the three-year deal.

The company also promised to donate to a Birmingham-based charity from the proceeds of every one of Villa’s third kits sold. BK8 further claimed that the company had partnered with Her Game Too, an anti-sexism campaign group. Together, the duo intend to lead campaigns on the importance of gender equality in football.

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