Online sportsbook and casino SBOTOP are best known for being the company that sponsored Leeds on their long-awaited return to the Premier League. All eyes were on the Peacocks during that season as they had spent the previous 16 years outside the English top flight. For such a big club, this was an extremely long wait so their fanbase will remember their Premier League comeback shirt fondly.
Who Are They?
SBOTOP is an alternative brand version of SBOBET, an Asian bookmaker licenced in both the Philippines and the Isle of Man. SBOTOP is the name used in the UK, although they did begin their time here as SBOBET. It was founded in 2004 so it is a brand with a wealth of experience and one that has enjoyed many successes and milestones along the way. In 2009, the Isle of Man operation became the first operator on the island to get approval to launch a live dealer casino on the island itself. Later in the year, they scooped the award for Asian Operator of the Year at the annual EGR Awards and did the same again 12 months later.
With two big accolades under their belt, by the time eGaming Review published their 2011 rankings, SBOBET stood as the 11th most influential betting operator in the world. This really is an operator of a substantial size, which really helps when trying to negotiate expensive football sponsorship deals. It is also worth mentioning that the UK-facing site, SBOTOP, is run by another big name, TGP Europe. This will not ring any bells for most punters but the Isle of Man-based company is responsible for running websites of many notable brands including Stake, SportPesa, Fun88 and Sportsbet.io.
The final thing to mention about SBOBET is that their parent company, Celton Manx Limited, was founded in 2008. They are e-gaming specialists and unlike many companies involved in gambling, they do have a proper headquarters, which even includes their logo on the side. The operation is run from the Isle of Man and it is responsible for running SBOTOP and SBOBET.
Football Sponsorship Deals
SBOTOP have agreed to many footballing sponsorship deals over the years, some within the UK, others in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland. They have even struck deals close to their original base in places such as India and Indonesia. Many of their deals within the UK, however, have enabled them to become official betting partners, rather than shirt sponsors (also known as principal partners). Ahead of the 2013/14 season, for example, SBOTOP (then SBOBET) agreed to deals with Swansea, West Ham, Southampton, Norwich and Hull to become their Asian betting partner. At the time, all five were playing in the Premier League.
Similarly, over the Irish Sea, deals made with both Dundalk and St Patrick’s Athletic in 2016 were for the betting partner roles rather than front-of-shirt deals. Still, SPOTOP have dabbled with the more visible, and more expensive shirt agreements as you can see from the examples below.
West Ham United (December 2008)
Rather than a summer deal, which is typically the case for such sponsorship deals, SBOBET and West Ham put pen to paper midway through the 2008/09 season. Prior to this point and somewhat strangely, West Ham matchday shirts featured the player’s number where the sponsors would normally be. The reason for this was the collapse of XL Holidays in September, who were midway through their three-year sponsorship contract with the Hammers.
It was noted by West Ham chief executive, Scott Duxbury, that usually finding a sponsor can take six months, so the two parties did well to wrap up a deal in less than half that. As a gesture of goodwill, West Ham said any fan who purchased an official shirt could get the new sponsor added free of charge. Duxbury also thanked fans for their patience and no doubt many were relieved to get rid of the ugly numbered square that made the West Ham players look like they were competing in a fun run. As part of the deal, SBOTOP featured across all adult shirts. Due to a recent changes to rules, they could not appear on academy and junior shirts so instead the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK took this space.
Despite being agreed in double-quick time, West Ham and SBOBET formed quite a solid relationship. They stayed together for another four years, making it a four and a half-year partnership overall, which is much longer than most. Even in 2013, when they disappeared from the Hammers’ shirt, they continued in another capacity, as the club’s Asian Betting partner.
Cardiff City (September 2009)
As was the case with the West Ham deal, here SBOBET swiftly negotiated terms with a club desperately seeking a new sponsor. At the start of the season, Championship side Cardiff had named 777ball.com as their principal sponsor but the Gambling Commission refused to allow this. Their reasoning was that 777ball did not hold a UK licence, nor was it licensed in an approved jurisdiction. Due to this, Cardiff executives were left scrambling trying to find a replacement deal.
Only for a very brief period were Cardiff forced to play with a sponsorless kit though before they had SBOBET printed on them. The Asian betting firm stuck around for the following season before eventually parting ways with the Welsh side. This was simply a natural end to the two-year deal which was believed to be worth around $400,000 a season.
Leeds United (August 2020)
After a nine-year absence from featuring on an English football team shirt, SBOBET returned although by this point they were now operating as SBOTOP in the UK. It was an expensive return to sponsorship too as they picked Leeds United, a side that had just earned promotion to the Premier League. It was a record-breaking deal for the Peacocks worth a reported £6m-a-season to them.
The length of the deal was not disclosed but at the time of writing it was in its third year. Some reports had indicated that this was the final season of the deal although comments from CEO of Celton Manx Limited, Bill Mummery, hinted otherwise. He said he wished to ‘remain part of Leeds story’ when the upcoming self-imposed ban on betting firm sponsors was announced (starting 2025/26). Given his concern about something happening two years in the future, the indication is that the upcoming ban will impact his plans.