New Premier League CEO Richard Masters questions link between shirt sponsorship and gambling addiction

The Premier League’s new CEO has questioned whether there is a link between shirt sponsorship and gambling addiction, but admitted that sport and betting have a "long, historic relationship".

Currently half of the teams in the Premier League wear shirts sponsored by gambling companies, amounting to deals worth a total of £68.6 million.

In the Championship the number of clubs is even higher, 17 out of 24 of them have a betting logo on their shirt.

Richard Masters, who took the role after three others turned it down, called for "regulation to protect the most vulnerable".

When asked by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott if he is comfortable with the Premier League’s association with a source of addiction, he said clubs will continue to abide by regulations.

“Our clubs have always abided by all of the regulations and rules around the activation of their betting partnerships and obviously will continue to do so," Mr Masters said.

The betting industry recently volunteered to stop advertising during matches - but that has not prevented them bombarding viewers just before and after games.

The Government is considering restricting gambling companies still further, but if they do, Mr Masters is confident that the Premier League will not suffer.

"If that came about, the Premier League would adjust as other sports have adjusted to other restrictions on sponsorship and advertising," the new CEO said, adding the Premier League is ready to work with the Government.

“All I can say is that we will be active participant in that, we welcome that review and we’ll be happy to work with the government on that.”

However, the betting industry itself contributes millions to safer gambling initiatives but is also warning that stricter laws could push punters towards illegal, unlicensed markets.

Mr Masters also talked about the use of VAR in the Premier League, which has been criticised by fans.

He told ITV News he doesn’t think football has got its use “so wrong” compared to other sports but said “that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved”.

Asked if it’s time to cut its use, he said: “It’s not quite as simple as that.

"It has improved decision making and so it is having a positive impact on the results of matches and affected the league table, which is its primary purpose.

“I think we accept that some fans are frustrated by inconsistent decision making, by the delays, by the methods used for determining offsides… what our research says is people want it to be a success – they want that precision but they want it to be better.”

Fans protesting against VAR at Selhurst Park in January. Credit: PA

On racism in football, he said it is a problem within society and that football “to some extent” reflects society.

But he added: “What football has is an unbelievable opportunity to involve itself in that debate and to make a positive contribution, so that’s why we do some of the things that we do, it’s why the clubs are actively involved in these issues.

“I do think that as a society at the moment we are quite divided and I do think that perhaps some aspects of communication give people a platform to express opinions that they would better keep to themselves.

“So I’m not sure I have the answers but I know that we are determined to deal with the issue.”