Steve Birch Sky Bet

Steve Birch

The importance of Sky Bet’s powerful partnership with the English Football League.

After enjoying Christmas Day after yet another year of disruption, football fans from all corners of the country watched their teams with excitement in another round of Boxing Day fixtures across the three divisions of the EFL. Despite the pandemic continuing to impact fixture lists and attendances, the passion and commitment of this fanbase is what makes the EFL so great, and why it makes it such a valued partner to Sky Bet.

As the CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming and a long-standing employee of the company, I have proudly watched this partnership flourish into one of the longest and most significant in professional sport since beginning in 2013 – a powerful relationship that now aims to engage thousands of players, millions of fans and all of our customers at Sky Bet on the importance of safer gambling.

Central to this is our approach to advertising, which has remained consistent since the early days of the partnership. When others used advertising space to showcase products and offers, we decided that we wanted to focus on promoting safer gambling messages and tools, with 70% of our EFL-related advertising inventory now focused on customer protection. These messages are seen at every single EFL match – from the sleeve badges on the players to the perimeter boards and LED displays surrounding the pitch. Our focus this season has been to use these assets to encourage the use of deposit limits as well as promote ‘TalkBanStop’ – a joint initiative by GamCare, Gamban and GamStop that explains the practical steps to take when tackling gambling harm. As part of our support, one of the nine minutes we are granted in digital advertising per EFL match is now reserved to promote this impactful campaign.

Another key area is the work of EPIC Risk Management, the leading independent harm minimisation consultancy in the UK, with whom we have a £1m multi-year partnership to educate players and staff from every one of the 72 EFL clubs about gambling-related harm. The aim of this bespoke training is to ensure players understand the potential risks associated with gambling, the rules around betting integrity, and know how to look out for signs of potential harm in their teammates. We are now in our fourth year of delivering this education and awareness programme – one of the largest ever conducted in world sport – and are committed to ensuring it remains relevant, effective, and far-reaching moving forward.

Finally, we are now increasingly focused on using Sky Bet’s leading digital marketing and content creation capabilities to connect EFL fans with the football personalities they love and provide behind-the-scenes access to their favourite clubs. Whether it is Jimmy Bullard fly-fishing with EFL legends such as Ian Holloway on Instagram or deep analysis of how Brentford’s transfer model propelled them into the Premier League on YouTube, we want to create content that football fans can enjoy without ever being encouraged to bet. There will be plenty more of this in the New Year, with exciting campaigns featuring some of UK football’s biggest names and smallest clubs.

These are but a few examples of how our relationship with the EFL has evolved to become a positive force within the UK’s footballing community. And we believe we have further to go. Having had to endure continued uncertainty due to the pandemic, be it through reduced gate receipts from crowd restrictions to outright cancellation of fixtures in the last few days, the EFL has somehow managed to power through with support from us and other partners. Against this backdrop, I know that everyone at Sky Bet is proud to stand alongside the organisation and all its clubs this season and next, and hope to continue our journey for many more years to come.

Steve Birch is the CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming

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