The Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust has strongly criticized the club’s recent shirt sponsorship deal with a controversial online betting firm.

In a deal that spans until the end of the 2025-26 season, Aston Villa has signed a partnership agreement with the Asia-based online betting firm BK8, a move that has sparked criticism from its own supporters’ trust.

Norwich agreed a sponsorship deal with BK8 in 2021 but cancelled it after just three days, following complaints from supporters over its sexualised online marketing material involving young women.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust (AVST) labelled the sponsorship deal a “cynical attempt” at financial gain and accused the club of ignoring fans’ concerns about gambling sponsorship.

“Though we acknowledge the commercial reality, we sadly feel the club has failed to listen to the legitimate concerns of fans about the role of gambling sponsorship in sport,” AVST said in a statement. “The BK8 agreement is a cynical last-minute attempt to scoop the financial gains ahead of the voluntary ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsors.

“While we understand fans, players and club staff alike want Villa to be as successful as possible, that should not come at the expense of exposing fans to the exploitative practices of gambling operators, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.”

In a statement announcing the partnership, Aston Villa said BK8 will make a contribution to a local charity in Birmingham for every sale of the club’s new third kit.

“The move comes off the back of BK8’s previous work over the past two years, working with charities and programmes involving mental health awareness, and this initiative is the first of what will be a number of collaborations,” the club statement added.

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AVST said it welcomed the funding but added “it should not come at the expense of others”. The supporters’ club added it had highlighted the social and mental harms caused by gambling addiction, and expressed concerns about BK8’s “misogynistic” marketing practices in a joint statement with other Villa fan groups in January.

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“At the time, we were given assurances of the club’s due diligence process and advised that the misogynistic practices were that of a BK8 affiliate,” AVST said. Reuters has contacted both Aston Villa and BK8 for comment.

The new home shirt, designed by Castore, also features a redesigned crest inspired by the badge worn by Villa’s 1982 European Cup-winning side. The midfielder John McGinn posed with the new shirt after announcing a contract extension, tying the Scotland international to the club until 2027.