David Hannant: Sponsor debacle is biggest own goal in recent memory

Behind the scenes from the BK8 main sponsorship announcement at Norwich City, Carrow Road.

Norwich City have announced BK8 as the club's new principal partner, with club ambassador Darren Eadie and chief operating officer Ben Kensell, right, in the foreground - Credit: Norwich City/Matthew Usher

The issue of betting companies sponsoring football clubs is contentious as it is, but personally, one I've been able to make peace with the past few years.

Is it ideal? No, of course it isn't. However, commercially, football is a dog-eat-dog world and with Norwich City already being a team facing different financial challenges to other teams, clearly it should not be expected to go to war with a Stanley knife when others are carrying bazookas.

And with recent betting sponsorships, the club has also taken measures to mitigate for the more damaging aspects and deserves recognition for this. For example, seeking out alternative sponsors for youth shirts, always promoting safe gambling and signposting ways of addressing troubles that come with it.

It came as no surprise to me, therefore, to see the next official club partner being another betting firm, in online casino BK8.

This time though, a line has been crossed. In fact, the line has been crossed by so much that the line is now a dot.

As the reaction on social media to the marketing approach of BK8 shows, clearly this is not a company we want to be associated with Norwich City Football Club, nor does it reflect our family ethos.

Just a few weeks ago, results of a survey were published showing that a proportion of the club's female following still feel marginalised or victim to sexism - and at the time both the club and those behind the survey were keen to highlight the club's robust approach to dealing with it.

However, this flies in the face of that. Our female supporters deserve to feel valued, feel a part of the family and not feel in any way marginalised - the message this sends is shocking.

While it is true that this was dealt with swiftly, it is something that could and should have been easily swerved. A driver taking evasive action to limit the damage of an accident is one thing, but driving sensibly and vigilantly is far more effective. 

The unsavoury images took all of five minutes to be brought to the club's attention following the announcement of BK8's announcement as main shirt sponsor.

Most Read

In the weeks running up to the big reveal, preparations for it were leaked on social media, so suffice this is a relationship that has been some time in the making.

Clearly, there was not a thorough enough look into the background of the company when it approached City's top brass, chequebook in hand.

And the worrying nature of the images are twofold: not only is it demeaning to the club's female fanbase, it is also a long, long way from being family friendly.

The fact that it was on Instagram, a platform where far more of the club's young fanbase dwell than those longer in the tooth, paints a damning picture.

In a way, the company's name isn't one you perhaps would associate with gambling as much as Dafabet or Leo Vegas, so it may also have led to younger members of the fanbase investigating it further. 

This shambles could have been avoided incredibly easily and, most worryingly, puts the due diligence into the commercial side of Norwich City into real question.

It is ironic that given everything on the footballing side is so, so meticulous, that some a slip up could get through the net.

The right thing for the club to do now would be to hold its hands up to the mistake and rip up the contract, even if it does result in new deal being less financially favourable as this one presumably is.

As any regular readers of my column will know, I am a fan who very much wears yellow and green spectacles and my glass tends to generally be half full.

Wherever I can, I give the club the benefit of the doubt, but until now, the Ullathorn-Gunn Portman Road connection was as bad as own goals got for City in my eyes - this blows that out of the water.