Spain’s Málaga Club de Fútbol, a team that currently plays in the country’s La Liga, is under new ownership. Sheik Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Thani recently bought the club for 10.5m euros. Even though the club came with a hefty 36m euros of debt, Sheikh Abdullah has already announced plans to drop one of the club’s main sponsors.
The contract was with William Hill, a major online sportsbook in the UK. The sports betting website sponsored Málaga CF’s jerseys. Sheikh Abdullah has terminated the contract because he is Islamic, and Islam forbids gambling. The contract was supposed to run until 2012.
“We don’t want to turn everything upside down and cancel contracts,” said the Sheik’s business associate Abdullah Ghubn, “but let’s put it this way: I’m a smoker but I don’t smoke in my home because these are the rules and I want to protect my family.”
Interestingly, this sort of situation has affected Spanish football in the past. In 2006, Muslim striker Frederic Kanoute wanted to drop jersey sponsor 888 Casino because he had an aversion to seeing the casino’s logo on player jerseys, but eventually gave in.
Spanish gambling laws are slowly opening up to allow internet gambling, but the regulation requirements are not yet very clear. Just days ago the Spanish Basketball Federation dropped its 2010 FIBA World Championship sponsorship deal with PokerStars, because the site is not licensed to provide internet gambling in Spain (specifically, they are not subject to Spanish gambling laws). Whether or not this same issue had an effect on Sheikh Abdullah’s decision to drop the William Hill sponsorship is not clear.