The Football Association (FA) has signed a TV and media rights deal that will result in seven UK betting websites live-streaming FA Cup matches. The deal is in effect until 2024, but the live-streaming to be done by betting websites has come under fire because it runs counter to the FA announcement in 2017 that they are putting an end to all gambling sponsorships.
Those who have been campaigning against the increasing association of gambling companies with football have criticised the FA deal, which allows gamblers to watch FA Cup matches live on betting sites, provided that they are actual customers of that site.
Seven UK-based betting companies--Bet365, Betfair, Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Unibet, and William Hill--have live-streaming rights as part of the deal. The rights are not sold to the companies directly by the FA. Rather, the organisation sold global rights to the marketing company IMG, and it is IMG that sells these rights to the betting companies. Besides the UK companies, IMG has also sold streaming rights to international betting sites, but the marketing company refused to release a list of those companies.
In response to the criticism, the FA explained that the media deals have already been made before they made the decision to sever sponsorships with betting companies. The organisation also announced that they already have plans of reviewing the sale of betting rights to FA Cup matches before the rights deals are up for renewal for the 2024-2025 season. A spokesman for the organisation has said, “The 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,” the spokesman added. “Leagues and clubs continue to govern their own relationships with gambling companies.” When the FA’s partnership with Ladbrokes was ended, along with the organisation’s sponsorship with betting companies, it said the decision followed a three-month review of their approach as the governing body for football.
IMG sells rights packages to betting companies via their IMG Arena operation. Besides football, the IMG Arena betting deals include basketball, golf, tennis, and T20 cricket. Dr. Darragh McGee of the University of Bath is one of those who have criticised the deal, saying that the sale of FA Cup broadcasting rights is “an alarming new dimension in the ‘gamblification’ of football, which is already saturated with targeted advertising campaigns, sponsorship of high-profile clubs, and naming rights to stadia and supporter events.”
Bet365, however, has insisted that their commercial arrangement is with IMG and not with the FA. They also emphasized that they are not requiring people to bet on an FA Cup match as a condition for being able to watch the stream. The company further said that the requirement for people to have placed a bet on their site within the last 24 hours or to have a funded account with them is in place to ensure that every person who watches the stream is verified, and that no one under the age of 18 can access 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.”