At no point during the soccer game between Stoke City and visiting Watford did anyone say, “Tonight’s match is brought to you by bet365,” one of the world’s largest online gambling companies. No one needed to. It was pretty obvious.
The game took place at bet365 Stadium, where “bet365” was stenciled across a huge swath of red seats, which were empty because of the pandemic. LED banner ads with the green-and-yellow bet365 logo blinked and rolled around the perimeter of the field throughout play. And every Stoke player had bet365’s insignia emblazoned on the front of his shirt. The company doesn’t just sponsor the team. The company owns it.
“We’ve been stuttering a bit,” Peter Coates, who is chairman of both bet365 and Stoke City, said in a phone interview a few hours before the January game. “We need a win tonight.”
He didn’t get one. Watford prevailed 2-1 after more than 90 minutes of sporadically exciting play.