NRL Clubs Facing Huge Financial Hit from Gambling Advertising Ban

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Australia’s rugby league clubs are facing the prospect of losing millions of dollars as the government moves forward with its plans to restrict gambling advertising. The plans include a ban on front-of-jersey sponsorships as well as restrictions on television, online and outdoor betting promotions.

The front-of-jersey sponsorship deals bring in roughly $1 million a season for NRL clubs. For example, the Manly Sea Eagles have a contract with Pointsbet that runs until the end of 2025 and it includes a $500,000 bonus if they win the NRL title.

Of the seventeen NRL teams, twelve have betting companies as partners. This goes as far as stadium naming rights; for instance Penrith and Cronulla have stadiums named after the bookmakers BlueBet and Pointsbet. However, it is not clear if the government intends to ban gambling operators from being naming-rights sponsors of stadiums.

Parallels to England

Earlier this year, teams in England’s Premier League agreed to stop gambling company sponsorship, including front-of-jersey, from summer 2026.

Speaking about the changes in Australia, Tony Mestrov, the boss of the Manly Sea Eagles, said that the clubs have been preparing.

We met with Pointsbet and the NRL a couple of months ago to talk through what changes would be made; we’ve been prepared for it, so it’s not new news to us. There have been suggestions that in three years time there will be no advertising [on the front of jerseys]. We’re up in 2025. We’ve had an open and forthright conversation about it. And we’ll go from there. There’s been no talk about banning advertising tomorrow.
There would have to be a grandfather clause. Pointsbet want to be a long-term sponsor of ours, even if it’s not on the front of the jersey. At this stage they will remain on the front until 2025, but we have to wait. It’s a moving feast, and we need to move with it. If they had to cut it off tomorrow, we’d have to understand. But our understanding is the government won’t do that and will give sporting clubs plenty of time to find [new sponsors].

Tony MestrovManly Sea Eagles Chief Executive

NRL Hopes to Avoid Blanket Advertising Ban

Andrew Abdo, the RL chief executive, and Gill McLachlan, the AFL chief executive, were present at a senate inquiry into online wagering earlier this year. The NRL’s position is that it would rather fund programs to help problem gambling rather than introduce a complete ban on match-day advertising.

One of the NRL’s biggest sponsors is Sportsbet and the league is actively trying to attract US bettors. However, with the proposed bans, these plans may have to take a back seat.

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