SEPTEMBER | THE COMMENTATOR Have a gamble Martin Fullard hedges his bets S porting events are a tricky business. Organisers have to fund their events somehow, which is mostly achieved through sponsorship. Not only that, but the sponsor must strike the right chord, something that wasn’t done at an event I attended recently. I live in the southern plains of Surrey, where everyone drives Range Rovers, sips gin, and swap their wives at the weekends. A confusing agenda of sporting events were taking place at the local showground and, as I was at a loose end, I took myself along. The main event was some sort of cross-country running race, where it was clear some of the contenders had taken far too seriously, but no matter. They were each wearing a number on upon their breast – as is standard – and above it the name of the sponsor. I won’t name the local company, but it supplies bespoke machined- engineered components for industrial plant. Fine. But among the children face-painted children on the bouncy castle and those sipping gin with their neighbour’s wives I couldn’t really tell who it was targeting. Certainly, unless the Bionic Man was entered in the race, the runners too weren’t even the right market. It seemed like a mistake. Football is a good at getting this right. In the 90s, half of the Premier League football teams were sponsored by technology companies, to coincide with the dawn of the Internet Era. Today, 10 of the 20 Premier League clubs are sponsored by betting firms, so too are a whopping 17 of the 24 EFL Championship Clubs. In fact, the Championship, together with League 1 and League 2 are sponsored by a betting firm – and fans don’t seem to mind. “Today, 10 of the 20 Premier League clubs are sponsored by betting firms” 50 Having a cheeky flutter or an accumulator is an innocent bit of fun, and football fans love it. The gambling industry is worth £14bn to the UK annually, but you only need to look at the uproar caused by Wayne Rooney’s move to Derby County last month, where he will wear the 32-shirt because the club are sponsored by 32Red, to see that the naysayers will soon have squeezed betting firms out. “Worrying,” was the word used by Gambling Watch UK. So, we can’t have the niche machinist or Ladbrokes sponsoring our sporting events, and as no other business on earth seems to have any money these days we must think about alternative ways. How about Crowdfunding? I support a League 1 football team which is currently building a new stadium. Long story short, we left our home town in 1991 and, one franchising and re- birth later, are on the cusp on returning. The club is owned by fans, so there is no sugar daddy money man to fund a new stadium. While the bulk of it is being paid for via a joint venture, the remaining funds are being raised through Crowdfunding. A number of us were cynical about this at first, but in the first 24 hours the club raised £1m… and at the time of press the club is 90% towards it £2m target. It’s an investment, and the perks increase in value the more you put in. You would simply be astounded at how much some people, who have no connection with the club at all, have put in. Worth a go? I would.