The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has cut its links with SportPesa less than a year after the association’s former chief, John Delaney, signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with the Kenyan sports betting giant.
The FAI moved to end its two-year deal with SportPesa, despite its financial woes. The sponsorship agreement was first announced in March 2019.
Following the announcement about the FAI’s contract with the betting company last year, gambling addiction groups put massive pressure on the association for teaming up with a gambling operator.
The FAI announced its deal with SportPesa in mid-March 2019. Back then, the football association said that the gambling company would partner it “on a corporate social responsibility programme.”
Upon announcing that SportPesa would sponsor Irish football, the FAI’s former chief executive, John Delaney, said that that would be the last time they did a betting sponsor and that they would “get a bit of stick, but we just have to put up with it.”
Mr Delaney departed the FAI shortly after the deal with SportPesa was announced, leaving the association in great turmoil.
In 2017, the English Football Association cut ties with its sponsor Ladbrokes after several high-profile scandals involving players being caught betting on matches. A number of League of Ireland players have been embroiled in match-fixing and betting on matches scandals in recent years, which was another reason why the FAI’s deal with SportPesa was frowned upon by many.
The Sunday Times reports that SportPesa had asked the Irish football association to refrain from being too public about the recent termination of the sponsorship agreement.
A spokesperson for the association told the news outlet that the gambling operator and the football body had reached a mutual agreement to end their relationship and that “a re-evaluation of sponsorship focus at the FAI prompted discussions between the two parties which has led to the expiry of this deal in January.”
SportPesa commented that while they had enjoyed a “highly successful partnership” with the FAI, they respected the fact that the association “has decided to shift its priorities and re-evaluate its partnerships portfolio.”
The betting operator’s statement went on that “as an organization that takes responsible gambling incredibly seriously, we understand the new approach taken by the FAI towards its partnerships with those in the gaming sector.”
The FAI ended its contract with SportPesa amid big financial troubles. However, those could soon be solved after the government signed this past week a rescue package of nearly €20 million (Ksh2.2 billion) that aims to save the association.
The package consists of upping the FAI’s Sport Ireland grant from €2.9 million to €5.9 million (Ksh323 million -Ksh657 million) for the next four years. In addition, the company that owns Aviva Stadium in Dublin will receive a repayable grant of €7.63 million (Ksh849 million) over the next three years. The FAI is part owner of the stadium.
Including the recently approved package and grant monies already approved, the FAI will receive more than €30.8 million (Ksh3.4 billion) from the Irish government through 2023.