The UK gambling regulatory body is probing the recently-announced scandalous deal under which a number of gambling companies were given exclusive media rights to broadcast FA Cup matches on their websites. Following a massive wave of criticism, Ministers from the UK Government have also made a commitment to review the 2005 Gambling Act as part of a move that could significantly affect revenues derived from sponsorship agreements in British football.
Last week, both Members of Parliament and anti-gambling campaigners strongly criticised the Football Association (FA) and some of the largest gambling companies in the UK after revelations that the FA had made a £750-million deal to provide a bunch of gambling companies with exclusive media rights for the FA Cup matches. At the time when the deal was revealed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it should be annulled with immediate action.
The significant criticism faced by the agreement made the UKGC initiate a probe in the recently-announced partnership of the FA with seven gambling operators – bet365, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral, Paddy Power, Betfair and Unibet.
Should the above-mentioned companies are found to have violated some regulatory rules, such as ones associated with protecting children from being deliberately targetted by gambling content, they could face severe punishment. Sanctions could include milder measures such as warnings, but they could also escalate to monetary fines and even loss of operating licence.
Some MPs Propose Blanket Ban on Shirt Sponsorships with Gambling Companies
The discussions that followed the announcement of the FA Cup media rights deal involved a possible review of the 2005 Gambling Act under which gambling is currently regulated on the territory of the UK. As a possible amendment of the country’s main piece of gambling legislation, Members of Parliament have mentioned a blanket ban on shirt sponsorships inked by professional sports and betting operators.
However, some experts claim that any extreme measures on the sector could be challenging for the Football League and English Premier League (EPL) clubs. For the time being, a large number of EPL football clubs have shirt sponsorships with gambling brands, so a blanket ban on the practice could hit them hard in the future.
The UKGC’s boss Neil McArthur has shared that the gambling watchdog remains in touch with all gambling operators who have inked the newly-announced FA Cup media rights deal. A spokesman for the Commission has also noted that gambling companies are still expected to make sure that their commercial deals relevant to sport are in line with keeping the gambling sector in the UK safe and transparent.
The probe into the agreements was given after last week a six-year contract negotiated through sports agency IMG that chose to sell the rights for live FA Cup matches to several gambling companies in 2017. The details of the deal, however, were revealed last week after some third-round FA Cup matches were broadcast on the website of bet365. Only two of the ties were available on free-to-air TV.