Aston Villa’s Principal Partner going the extra mile

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Cazoo

Aston Villa’s Principal Partner, Cazoo, have launched a new charitable initiative which will see the club’s Foundation benefit from every goal the first-team score in the Premier League this season.

Cazoo will donate £1,000 to the Foundation for every goal scored as the online car retailer pledges to raise up to £50,000 with the new ‘Golden Goals’ initiative.

Villa’s historic 7-2 win over Liverpool followed a four-goal haul in previous games against Sheffield United and Fulham, so Villa’s charitable partners have been paying out to maintain their mission to be ‘Working Together to Enrich Lives’.

The donations help the Aston Villa Foundation’s work in the local area as well as the wider Birmingham community. Running over 250 sessions across the week, the Foundation benefits thousands of people by living more healthy, active lifestyles, and encouraging education, pursuing training and work to contribute to stronger, safer communities.

CEO and Founder of Cazoo, Alex Chesterman OBE said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Aston Villa Foundation, a great charity that delivers essential projects and provides opportunities to people in the local communities around Birmingham.

“It’s going to be an exciting season and we look forward to the goals that will continue to help the Foundation with their incredible work in and around the community.”

Head of the Aston Villa Foundation, Guy Rippon was thankful for the keen support of this season’s new principal partner.

“We are very grateful for the support of Cazoo with the ‘Golden Goals’ initiative,” Rippon said.

“Cazoo has shown a clear commitment to supporting the local community and helping others and the ‘Golden Goals’ scheme will allow us to be able to react over the course of the season to support priority groups and help to tackle societal issues across Birmingham.”

Ezri Konsa, whose goal against Sheffield United secured the first £1,000 donation for the Foundation, said: “I’m delighted to have played a part in this initiative. Hopefully, the Foundation will benefit from it across the whole season.”

Cazoo have also committed to supporting Everton in the Community with the same promise this season. Though, it’s not only the charitable exploits of the fastest-growing digital business in the UK that has pleased the club officials of two cornerstones of English football.

Both Villa and Everton have seen shirt sales go up 50 per cent after replacing principal partnerships with bookmakers, according to the OffThePitch soccer business outlet.

The sales boost could be worth an additional £100,000 in shirt sales revenue for Villa who had a one-year deal with the W88 betting brand worth a reported £6 million.

In fact, Cazoo’s pledge to connect fans closer to their club was even more evident when they took to the road to give away Villa’s new third strip with their logo emblazoned on a white camouflaged body.

Joined by Gabby Agbonlahor, deserving community champions were rewarded for their charitable efforts in their local areas with a free shirt and visit from Villa’s all-time leading Premier League top-scorer.

A closer look at Cazoo the business

Cazoo are pioneering the shift to online car buying in the UK after its launch last year and their multi-year deal with Villa will prove beneficial for both parties.

Their branding is featured on the playing kits and training wear of all club sides from the men’s first team, down to the youngest academy age groups this season, including all Aston Villa Women sides, as their first team embark on a historic first Women’s Super League campaign.

For the first time in years, the club’s principal partner branding has also featured on all junior kits to be sold, which means that Villa’s younger fans are able to purchase and wear the same shirts as their heroes.

Since 2006, Villa have endorsed gambling companies from most recently W88 to 32Red who was the club’s first betting partner. Branding replica shirts with betting logos in 11 of their last 14 seasons, junior Villans were permitted from wearing identical replicas, but this year, Cazoo broke the mould.

Villa’s Chief Commercial Officer, Nicola Ibbetson said upon announcing the partnership with Cazoo: “We are immensely proud to have partnered with one of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK.

“Cazoo’s commitment to a partnership with Aston Villa provides both parties with an opportunity to work together for many years to come.

“Alongside several planned activations and fan engagement activities, all generations of Villa fans will be able to wear replica shirts that faithfully resemble those of their on-pitch heroes with the Cazoo branding appearing on all replica kit.”

Alex Chesterman OBE

Founder & CEO of Cazoo, Alex Chesterman added: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Aston Villa and supporting the Club’s men’s and women’s sides as well as their academy and charitable efforts.

“We are looking forward to next season and working closely with the Club as we make Cazoo a household name by reinventing the used car buying experience and providing the best selection, value, quality and convenience for UK car buyers.”

Most Villa fans were surprised and slightly pessimistic about the club’s new deal with the online car selling company but despite their relatively new inception, owner Chesterman has big plans for the future.

The 50-year-old entrepreneur has a bachelor of science degree in economics from University College London and has some serious business acumen having sold his ScreenSelect business (later LoveFilm) to Amazon for £200 million.

More recently, in 2007 he founded Zoopla, the housing and property website which was sold in 2018 for £2.2bn to a US private equity group. He served as a chief executive officer until the end of that year when he stepped down but he remains on the board.

In December 2018 Chesterman announced a funding round of over £30 million for his next venture, Cazoo which aimed at transforming the used car market, and to this day has raised over a reported £180 million.

As well as serving as CEO of Zoopla, Chesterman is an active investor; he has investments in sports e-commerce site SportsPursuit and student booking site Uniplaces. In June 2015 Chesterman invested in Farmdrop, a service that lets people buy food directly from farmers.

He was also listed as one of the top ten ‘coolest tech investors in the UK’ according to Business Insider following his backing of digital startups Graze, Secret Escapes, CarWow and Swoon, earning OBE for services to digital entrepreneurship in 2016.

Why Villa should be proud of the move

Cazoo’s new partnership with Villa on the face of things seems ordinary but in fact, it promises to be an interesting relationship backed by Chesterman’s ingenuity and big plans for his rapidly growing business.

Grealish with Villa's new partner Cazoo on his shirt

For Villa, the deal may not be as lucrative had they partnered with another betting firm, but the social cost of doing so outweighs the financial gain of a deal so often struck in English football.

Half of the Premier League’s club shirts last season were plastered with a gambling company’s logo which has reignited fresh concerns about the normalisation of betting amongst not only society but young football fans also.

Premier League clubs earned around £350 million from shirt sponsorship deals this season – a record from a rise of more than 10% compared to £315 million last season. Another record high last season was the number of clubs supporting gambling brands, with ten teams wearing logos from an industry that’s also taken a hold of Championship clubs.

17 out of 24 Championship club shirts included a betting logo last season, meaning 27 of England’s top 44 clubs sold and wore shirts that included betting sponsorships despite growing concerns among MPs and Ladbrokes-owned GVC who’ve agreed to not sponsor football club merchandise.

Former deputy Labour leader Tom Watson claimed the gambling industry is not doing enough to promote responsible betting.

“Less than a year ago, we were told by the gambling industry that they are committed to reducing the amount of advertising in football,” Watson claimed.

“We were told that we are facing a ‘watershed moment’ in which they would strive to provide an ever safer gambling environment.

“These are their words, not mine. But it is impossible to take these words in good faith when we are actually seeing an increase in gambling advertising around matches.

“The time for warm words is over. Either the industry is going to act in good faith, or we will need stricter regulation of gambling advertising – starting with a ban on football shirt sponsorship.”

In July, a House of Lords Select Committee report recommended that shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies should be outlawed in the Premier League and that clubs in the English Football League will be given three years to phase out such contracts.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters had previously noted that gambling needs stronger governance.

None of the Premier League’s ‘top-six’ wore a gambling sponsor last season, but the industry still accounted for the vast majority of other clubs in the league with Betway the biggest contributor through their £10 million deal with West Ham.

Making a change for millions

Recovering gambling addict James Grimes led a charity walk from Manchester City to Manchester United via six clubs who represent gambling companies on their shirts. Last year’s event raised money for Gambling With Lives – a charity set up by Charles Ritchie after his son Jack took his own life following a betting addiction.

The Big Step event was organised after studies released in 2019 warned of warned “dire consequences” due to the gambling industries prominence in football. More worryingly, research has exposed links between addictive gambling and suicide.

Grimes said: “Given gambling companies have accepted the principle of not showing TV ads during football matches because they are visible to children, it is completely unjustifiable for the pre-watershed ban to not extend to shirt sponsorship and pitch perimeter advertising as well.”

The Premier League have however announced they will resist any moves to ban clubs from having their shirts sponsored by betting companies.

Masters responded further to concerns about football’s ‘gamblification’ which has for a long time only served to increase betting problems and addictions.

“Sport and gambling have a long association,” Masters said.

“We’re certainly not sniffy about it; it’s up to our clubs whether they want to have their own gambling relationships.”

Masters also hinted that the 2005 Gambling Act will also be reviewed.

“We’ll be welcome participants in that, I think this area does need stronger governance, particularly to protect the vulnerable.

“I don’t think the answer coming out at the end of it should be that football clubs shouldn’t have shirts sponsored by gambling companies, but we will certainly cooperate with the review.”

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