FA reviews appropriateness of having official betting partner

Jason Burt
Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino stand in front of an advertisement for Ladbrokes, the FA's betting partner, at the FA Cup semi-final in April - Rex Features

The Football Association is reviewing whether it is appropriate for the organisation to have an official betting partner amid concern over the sport’s close relationship with gambling.

At the same time the FA is pushing for a Football Betting Levy – to be collected in the same manner as in horse-racing – to be paid by all bookmakers with money ploughed back into the grass-roots game.

If a levy was agreed it would raise huge amounts of money for football with the FA arguing that it would take the pressure of them having to seek a betting partner to help raise revenue.

The tone of the ongoing debate suggests that while the FA does not yet appear to be actively considering cutting short the “long-term” deal it signed with bookmakers Ladbrokes last year – when they replaced William Hill – it is not expected to be extended beyond the current contract.

The FA, a not-for-profit organisation, is acutely aware of the growing criticism it has faced because it maintains a relationship with a bookmaker while it has the role of cracking down on betting misdemeanours.

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This was highlighted last week with the 18-month ban handed to Joey Barton for breaching the rules after which the Burnley midfielder issued a lengthy statement which included a reference to the FA’s own relationship with betting.

“If the FA is serious about tackling gambling I would urge it to reconsider its own dependence on the gambling industry,” Barton wrote and while the FA’s review is not in response to his criticism – it is an ongoing conversation – it has highlighted the issue even further. The FA knows its defence on the issue is weak.

The FA brought in new rules in 2014 which amount to an outright ban on football-related betting and applies to everyone involved in the game from Premier League level down. Since that time it has been increasingly difficult for the FA to justify having an official betting partner.

The FA banned Joey Barton for 18 month for betting on matches Credit:  Martin Rickett/PA Wire

The argument in favour of having one is that, as stated by FA chief executive Martin Glenn when the Ladbrokes deal was announced, it helps in “investing record levels back into football at all levels of the game”.

As part of the deal Ladrokes is granted “premium brand exposure alongside England senior men’s matches and ties across all rounds of The Emirates FA Cup” but its access to England players has been limited.

The commercial argument has to be balanced against the potential damage done by the arrangement to the FA’s integrity and its ability to regulate the sport.

Seeking a levy would help. Bookmakers who take bets on British horse races from UK gamblers have to pay a levy – the Government is also in the process of closing a loophole to offshore-registered bookmakers – with the money going back into horseracing.

If football, and other sports such as cricket and rugby, which are also interested in the issue, could also impose such a levy then they also believe it would take further pressure of them having to seek lucrative sponsorship deals with bookmakers.

 

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