OPINION: All bets are off – a look at Bristol City’s sponsorship history.

by Harry Elliott | @harry94elliott

You always remember your first.

For me, it will always be DAS. The impactful circle with the cute, almost wheatsheaf like, emblems around the perimeter. Scott Murray cupping his ear at Ninian Park, Christian Roberts chopping inside and sending Ashton Gate into delirium, Tommy Doc lifting the LDV in Cardiff – all moments emblazoned with the iconic logo of a legal insurance brokers, based in BS1.

Well, that might be a case of rose-tinted spectacles and rather over-egging the importance of a football team’s shirt sponsor, but it is hard to argue that DAS didn’t feel symbiotic with early 00s Bristol City.

Bristol Trade Centre followed in 2005 and remained as City won promotion to the Championship and reached Wembley the following season. A bit on the basic side, the sponsor was very clearly a Bristolian business; as was RSG, which arrived in 2011 after a DAS renaissance in the twilight years of Gary Johnson.

At this point the City board were on a roll with selecting local businesses and furthered this community link with the 2011/12 away kit. The choice of the Bristol City Community Trust was an altruistic breath of fresh air (yes, even in *that* colour). During a well-documented period of trouble for City, forgoing away kit sponsorship for the in-house charity and raising awareness of the work in the South Bristol community was a nice touch.

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Looking pretty in… yellow?

Back to the present day and the news that Mansion Bet will be the principal sponsor of Bristol City for the 2020/21 season. Does a move away from charities and local businesses convey complete abandonment of the community, and erode Bristol City’s (to use a Johnsonism) ‘identity’? To be honest, I don’t think it does. 

Arguably, the income from Dunder last season and Mansion Bet this season will help the club towards the overarching goal of ‘financial prudence’. Naturally, hard figures are not in the public domain but it is very likely that the income from Dunder and Mansion Bet is in great excess of income from previous solid, yet unspectacular, sponsor, Lancer Scott. One would hope this boost in cashflow will help the club operate as a business in what will undoubtedly be a difficult season ahead.

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Dunder only stuck around for 2019/20.

Is that to say we should accept Mansion Bet’s money and this financial sustainability on any terms? Not at all. 

The much maligned (probably due to poor communication from the club) five pillars actually set a good precedent for running a football club – invest heavily in facilities, youth infrastructure, recruitment processes, the community; all the while attempting to be financially sound. 

For the most part, over the past seven or so years since the ‘vision’ was set out in this YouTube video, the club have achieved or are well on the way to achieving this. Providing the extra injection from a Mansion Bet or other future sponsor partner is invested wisely into the smooth running of the club and the community work done in the local area.

I would imagine the provenance of the money soon becomes more palatable.

It is right to have concerns and reservations around the gaming and gambling industry. It has the capability to destroy lives both directly and indirectly through many means. With half of all Premier League clubs and 17 of 24 Championship clubs sponsored by gambling or betting sites this is an issue far larger than the confines of Ashton Gate. Interestingly, upon announcement of Mansion Bet, the club were very quick to name-drop…

“Mansion Group has a proven track record when it comes to football partnerships, having been sponsors of Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and AFC Bournemouthas well as the official betting partners of Manchester City and Newcastle United.”

Almost as if to show that City are merely latecomers to the party that is 21st century professional football.

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While it is undoubtedly morally abhorrent to some, often with good reason, many more fans will greet this new sponsor with widespread ambivalence. The sponsor on the shirt may look cheap in itself, but the reality is far from it. 

Despite the very real and obvious concerns around the betting industry, the board of Bristol City have decided that the fiscal reward per annum in a behind-closed-doors age is too good to turn down. Maybe this is just another part of the cliched ‘new normal’.

For what it’s worth, I’m sticking with my old, worn and second hand 1999/2000 DAS shirt.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with gambling please reach out to some of the organisations below:




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