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FA urged to reconsider deal with betting firm

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said she hopes the organisation will rethink its decision to allow Bet 365 to broadcast FA Cup matches.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has urged the FA to reconsider its deal with Bet365 (John Walton/PA)
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has urged the FA to reconsider its deal with Bet365 (John Walton/PA)

By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Correspondent

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has said she hopes the Football Association will “reconsider” after it allowed a betting company to broadcast FA Cup matches.

It comes more than two years after the governing body said it would end partnerships with gambling firms.

Bet365, which allows football fans to watch play if they place a bet via their app, has been showing matches since the start of last season.

The partnership drew criticism from viewers and campaigners over the weekend when all matches were delayed by a minute to promote the Duke of Cambridge’s mental health charity.

Baroness Morgan tweeted: “This is a contractual matter for the FA & Bet365 but things have moved on since the contract was signed &; I hope they will re-consider.”

The FA announced in July 2017 that it would no longer have a betting partner after terminating a contract with Ladbrokes.

A spokesman said the FA would review the arrangements of its deal with IMG, the third party that sold the rights to Bet365, when the contract expires after the end of next season.

It stressed that the deal with IMG was a pre-existing broadcast deal done before it made its decision in mid-2017 to end its official betting partnership with Ladbrokes.

The FA said: “The FA agreed a media rights deal with IMG in early 2017, part of which permits them to sell the right to show live footage or clips of FA Cup matches to bookmakers. Bet365 acquired these rights from IMG to use from the start of the 2018-19 season.

“This deal was agreed before we made a clear decision on the FA’s relationship with gambling companies in June 2017 when we ended our partnership with Ladbrokes.

“We will review this element of the media rights sales process ahead of tendering rights to the new cycle from the 2024-25 season onwards. Leagues and clubs continue to govern their own relationships with gambling companies.”

Bet to view is simply wrong and needs to stop. Football needs to rethink its relationship with the betting industry and reconsider gambling’s role in the beautiful game. This is another own-goal from the gambling industry Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director

Bet365 said in a statement: “Bet365 does not sponsor the FA or the FA Cup and does not have any direct commercial agreement with the FA.  bet365, along with multiple other operators, has the right to live stream certain FA Cup matches through a long standing media rights deal with IMG.

“There is no obligation on bet365’s customers to place a bet on any FA Cup match to enjoy the live streams at bet365. To do so, customers are simply required to either have a funded bet365 account or to have placed a bet on any event with bet365 in the previous 24 hours. This requirement importantly ensures that all such customers are fully verified to prevent under 18s from accessing the service.

“Bet365 believes that these streaming services provide added value to its customers and enable them to watch FA Cup matches that they might not otherwise have been able to see.”

Last weekend’s third-round matches all signposted the Heads Up campaign, a joint initiative between the FA and the charity Heads Together, spearheaded by William.

All fixtures other than the 10 that kicked off at 3.01pm on Saturday were screened live by Bet365, including Liverpool’s derby against Everton and Arsenal versus Leeds.

National mental health director for the NHS Claire Murdoch said: “Bet to view is simply wrong and needs to stop. Football needs to rethink its relationship with the betting industry and reconsider gambling’s role in the beautiful game.

“This is another own-goal from the gambling industry.

“Betting firms talk a good game when it comes to tackling addiction but it is no wonder that – with tactics like these – more people are seeking help for gambling problems on the NHS.

“The NHS never stands still as health needs change, which is why we’re rolling out new specialist services to tackle mental ill-health linked to gambling addiction, as part of our Long Term Plan, but it is high time that all these firms who spend many millions on marketing and advertising step up to the plate and take their responsibilities seriously.”

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said the deal “demonstrates the need for a complete overhaul of regulation around sports and gambling”.

Chief executive Shirley Cramer said: “This is a rotten deal from start to finish, and it is extremely disappointing that the FA has been such a willing participant in the gamblification of football. Football has played an historic role in unifying our society, yet problem gambling and gambling disorder can tear families and communities apart, and has led to the loss of far too many lives already.

“The reality is that lives are at risk now and waiting until 2024 is not good enough – urgent action is needed to prevent further harm and the FA must work to scrap this harmful deal without delay.”

It's extraordinary that football bosses are allowing bookies to carry out this wholesale 'gamblification' of our national sport. Football bosses will have to explain themselves, not least to parents and young people Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, described the situation as “extraordinary”.

He said: “This plan puts gambling at the very core of broadcast football and may be unilaterally breaking gambling firms’ ad ban – made only last year.

“It’s extraordinary that football bosses are allowing bookies to carry out this wholesale ‘gamblification’ of our national sport. Football bosses will have to explain themselves, not least to parents and young people.

“Advertising and promoting gambling is widely understood to be linked with levels of gambling-related harm which are damaging public health at unprecedented levels. Promoting this harm must not be the fate for the national, beautiful game.

“Yet it is only through paper-thin regulation that this happened. The regulators have said they would stand against this direction of travel, so they too must provide an explanation.”

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of The Football Supporters’ Association, said: “This deal highlights the major concerns fans have about the growth of gambling in football – governing bodies need to take these concerns seriously.

“Through our partnership with GambleAware, we are taking real steps to promote safer gambling in football and we call on the FA to get around the table on the issue. There is much more to be done to protect fans from the risks of gambling.”

In December it was revealed that Bet365 chief executive Denise Coates had kept her place as the highest-paid boss in the country after pocketing a £57 million basic pay rise last year and taking home a basic salary of almost £277 million in the year ended March 2019.

It comes on top of the around £45 million she is believed to have received in dividends as a major shareholder.

PA

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