188Bet agrees football shirt deal first

Mark Davies of the Bolton Wanderers is seen during game action at Reebok Stadium during their match against Sunderland May 9, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Currie via Action Images

LONDON (Reuters) - Online gaming firm 188Bet has become the first company to sponsor two Premier League clubs after striking a deal to sponsor Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, replacing Reebok and JJB Sports, respectively.

The in-play football betting specialist will become principal sponsor of the two clubs from the start of the 2009/10 season and its brand logo will appear on all adult club shirts. 188Bet said the deals will enable it to raise its profile in the UK and Europe. At the moment, it is mainly focussed on the Asian market, which generates about 80 percent of its revenues.

“We were looking for a unique opportunity to mark 188BET’s first major foray in the UK market, and feel that the collaborative engagement with both Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic shall help us to further grow the strength of our brand,” said 188Bet Chief Executive Andy Scott.

188Bet declined to comment on the level of investment involved in the deals, which will run concurrently over a two-year period.

188Bet, based in the Isle of Man, is following a number of other online gambling firms who either currently or have in the past sponsored Premier League football clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur are sponsored by Mansion, a gaming and entertainment group based in Gibraltar. West Ham announced a deal with SBOBET, another online betting firm last December.

Reebok will continue to manufacture Bolton’s kit and is committed to sponsoring the club’s stadium until 2016 despite its parent company, Adidas, closing its office at the stadium earlier this year, with 160 jobs lost as a result.

Wigan were known to be looking for a new shirt sponsor. Chairman Dave Whelan sold his stake in JJB Sports, the company he founded, in 2007 and recently changed the name of Wigan’s ground from the JJB Stadium to the DW Stadium.

JJB last month agreed new, easier terms with its landlords in order to stave off administration after it was forced to close over 100 shops last year due to tough trading conditions.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham; editing by Simon Jessop