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The concept of football clubs being sponsored by gambling brands remains a controversial one, while it has been highlighted that the banning of this practice could cost the EFL up to £40 million in lost revenue. Leeds United is one of numerous clubs that have a history of gambling affiliation, while they’re currently sponsored by the online international bookmaker SBOBET.com.
In this post, we’ll look at Leeds United’s previous gambling affiliations, while appraising the club’s performance during such periods.
1) Bet24, July 2006 to August 200
Leed United’s first gambling partner was Bet24, with the latter serving as the White’s shirt sponsor between July 2006 and August 2007. This agreement was an interesting one, as it went beyond a normal shirt sponsorship deal thanks to the 90% stake owned by Modern Times Group (MTG) in Bet24. This was sold as potentially opening up significant international opportunities in terms of commerce and merchandising, while helping to establish the club’s international standing after a turbulent period both on and off the field.
However, the agreement was cut short after just 12 months, with the club finishing bottom of the Championship (ensuring relegation to the third tier) and struggling to exit financial administration. Of course, the club wasn’t helped by a 10-point deduction due to its financial woes, although this didn’t have a direct impact on their fortunes as they finished 13 points from safety overall.
2) 32 Red, July 2018 to August 2020
At the start of the 2018/19 season, Leeds entered into a new, two-year sponsorship deal with 32 Red, shortly after the appointment of the mercurial South American manager Marcelo Bielsa. The popular casino brand offers some of the top games in the industry provided by top software providers such as Microgaming and Netent. Microgaming Casino Land, a leading resource for such online games, list other top brands such as Mansion Bet that have sponsored the likes of Spurs, and household names like William Hill.
Interestingly, this was the fifth such deal struck by the gambling brand in the Championship, as they also served as shirt sponsors for Aston Villa, Derby County, Preston North End and Middlesbrough.
This seemed to herald a new dawn for the sleeping giant, with Leeds storming to the top of the Championship while adopting an inherently attacking and high-intensity style of play. However, the side appeared to run out of steam as the season played out, losing four of their last seven matches before being beaten in the play-off semi-finals by Red32 rivals Derby County. Fortunately, the club bounced back the following season, winning the Championship title by 10 points and emerging victorious in seven of their last eight matches (despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic).
3) SBOTOP, August 2020 to Present
Prior to Leeds’ return to the Premier League, the club agreed a lucrative and multi-year partnership with global sports betting brand SBOTOP. This saw the SBOTOP logo feature prominently on the front of Leeds’ iconic white shirts, as they emerged as the club’s principal sponsor amid an influx of new television money.
With Bielsa still at the helm, Leeds enjoyed a stellar return to the top-flight, finishing comfortably in ninth place and participating in some truly thrilling, high-scoring matches. The side also found some superb form and consistency towards the end of the season, winning seven and losing just one of their last 11 EPL matches (scoring 19 goals and conceding just eight in the process).
Since our relegation from the Premier League in 2004, we have enjoyed our most successful season with this shirt sponsor. It certainly seems a long distance from the days of being shafted simultaneously by Ken Bates and the Football League with Bet24 on our kit. That was 2007. White things not looking quite as rosy for two decades (White Rose of Yorkshire-rosy, of course!) this is now reflected in the bookies’ odds of how we will fare come next season.
With gambling sponsorships becoming increasingly controversial in the Premier League, it remains to be seen whether such kit deals will be around in a few years. In the meantime, the club will continue to reap the benefits of the most lucrative kit deal they’ve had for some time.