Express & Star

Aston Villa ‘did due diligence’ over betting sponsorship

Villa have told supporters they undertook “extensive due diligence” before agreeing a sponsorship deal with controversial online gambling company BK8.

Last updated
Villa Park

News the Asia-based firm was set to become Villa’s new main sponsor sparked a furious reaction when it emerged last month, with fan groups and anti-addiction charities urging the club to cancel the deal and accusing it of “not holding itself to a high enough standard”.

BK8 was previously dropped by Norwich City over sexualised adverts involving women, yet the agreement with Villa appears certain to go ahead after chief executive Christian Purslow met with members of the club’s Fan Consultation Group (FCG) to address their concerns.

In a statement released yesterday, the FCG explained it had been assured any commercial partner would “align with the club’s ethics and values”. It continued: “While some fans will be disappointed after Villa’s current front-of-shirt sponsor moved away from gambling companies, the commercial reality is that to teams outside the top six, such sponsors offer clubs twice as much financially as non-gambling companies.”

Villa’s existing deal with car dealer Cazoo is due to expire this summer and though a successor is yet to be confirmed, the FCG believes BK8 will become the new front-of-shirt sponsor in a three-year deal.

That is despite Purslow having previously suggested the club would be moving away from using gambling firms as a front-of-shirt sponsor.

League rules mean gambling firms cannot appear on the front of junior replica kits, a fact the club were keen to promote when signing the previous deal with Cazoo in 2020.

Norwich tore up their agreement with the firm in the summer of 2021 after it emerged the firm’s marketing on YouTube featured simulated sex acts.

BK8 apologised, rebranded itself and has since announced smaller partnerships with Crystal Palace, Burnley and Huddersfield.

The Villa deal has emerged just weeks before the government is expected to publish a long-awaited white paper on gambling reform.

Clubs have previously indicated they were open to a voluntary clampdown on gambling sponsors to avoid legislation, but a planned Premier League vote on the matter was dropped last summer.