According to an in-depth study by the Financial Times, many gambling sponsors seen in the Premier League come from shell companies. This essentially means that these companies only truly exist on paper. Teams such as Newcastle, Watford, and Leicester City have reportedly received funds from such sponsors.

The Premier League announced back in April that they will ban betting sponsors on the fronts of jerseys in the future. However, these gambling sponsors could continue to produce advertisements in other ways. The league also does not currently force their teams to vet current sponsors as well.

“The Premier League doesn’t impose its own standards on clubs when it comes to vetting potential sponsors,” claimed James Sandy of the Financial Times. “It’s up to each club individually and none of the clubs we approached were willing to tell us how they go about due diligence in any detail. So we looked into the betting brands themselves and who owns them. What we found was a tangled web of closed doors, dead ends, and companies within companies.”

Many betting businesses fall under long list of parent companies

The aforementioned report claims these gambling businesses typically fall under various other companies. For instance, previously signed sponsorship deals with both Newcastle and Watford back in 2013. was under parent company Fesuge Limited, which was under Xela Holdings, which was then under Xela BVI.

It was reported a decade ago that Xela Holdings was essentially the online arm of Suncity. According to the aforementioned study, Suncity has been accused of being a front for money laundering. In fact, the company’s CEO, Alvin Chau, was previously sentenced to 18 years in jail for fraud, illegal gambling, and ties to organized crime.

Shell companies use Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands to hide dealings with EPL shirt sponsorships

Nevertheless, officially proving that 138 and Xela was actually part of Suncity could be a tough task. Xela’s headquarters are on the Isle of Man, a tiny island in the Irish Sea between Great Britian and Ireland. The Isle of Man does have access to the UK government, but currently has their own separate laws in place.

“The Isle of Man has an act which basically allows you, if you feel uncomfortable revealing your ownership of something, you can nominate a shareholder in your place,” stated Justin Williams of Insightx Due Diligence Agency. “So you end up with shell companies. You end up with shell companies that go nowhere because you cannot find out definitively who the owners are.”

The Financial Times could not ultimately confirm who is exactly head of these shell companies. However, the line at each business almost always ended at the British Virgin Islands. The territory is in use by some as a tax haven which allows privacy from prying eyes. A vast majority of English clubs to use these gambling companies rejected the chance to discuss their dealings with the news outlet.

Photo credit: IMAGO / NurPhoto