As if online betting firms didn’t have enough to worry about, the Gambling Commission is now looking into whether they should be banned from football shirt sponsorship deals.

Sports minister Richard Caborn said the investigation will focus on whether the deals break rules which prevent betting firms from advertising to children.

Middlesborough (888), Aston Villa (32Red), Spurs (Mansion), and Blackburn and Leeds (both Bet24) all have multi-million pound sponsorship arrangements with gambling firms.

The news suggests internet betting firms won’t be able to reduce their lobbying activities during 2006, after a few months of nightmares with lawmakers.

A consultation on the shirt sponsorship issue is likely to be launched early next year, while the Commission is also preparing its regulatory stance ahead of the UK Gambling Act’s introduction next September.

Quoted by the BBC, Labour MP Ben Chapman expressed concerns over the “proliferation” of the sponsorship deals, adding: “A big part of this is attracting customers, not only from competitors, but from those who have never gambled.”

Caborn said “regulation, not prohibition” was the way forward.