The Football Association has been advised to “reconsider” its relationship with bet365 by Nicky Morgan, the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The bookmaker streamed 23 FA Cup third-round matches last weekend as part of a deal the FA signed with sports media company IMG in January 2017. The matches were only available to watch if the customer had placed a bet or put £5 in an account in the 24 hours before kick-off.
All third-round matches last weekend were delayed by one minute to publicise the FA’s ‘Heads Up’ mental health campaign, backed by FA president Prince William, which appears to jar with the bet365 tie-up given the link between problem gambling and mental health issues.
The FA has said it will review this element of how it sells its media rights in the future, with the bet365 deal due to run until 2024. However, Morgan appeared to call on the governing body to look at the deal to see if there was any way out before that.
She wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Sports minister Nigel Adams added on the social media platform: “The gambling landscape has changed since this deal was signed in early 2017.
“All sports bodies need to be mindful of the impact that problem gambling can have on the most vulnerable.”
Gary Lineker, one of the main presenters of the BBC’s FA Cup coverage, tweeted: “This is all kinds of wrong. Sort it @FA.”
Malcolm Clarke, the 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.”
Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of Public Health England whose Every Mind Matters campaign was also publicised during the recent round of FA Cup matters, said: “PHE is currently reviewing the evidence about the health harms of gambling, which we believe are wide-ranging.
“Our report will provide sports governing bodies a fresh opportunity to review their relationships with gambling.”
That relationship between gambling and sport is an intimate one. Premier League clubs work with betting partners, while the EFL’s title sponsor is Sky Bet.
It is understood the EFL’s streaming arrangement with its betting partners differs in that all the games available to stream can be viewed elsewhere – either on television or via club websites.
The Premier League does not have a central gambling partner. If individual Premier League clubs have arrangements with betting firms they are not permitted to use the company logo on youth replica kits or shirts worn by their youth teams.
The FA ended a deal with Ladbrokes in June 2017 – a position adopted only after the deal with IMG was done.
The Royal Communications office at Buckingham Palace said the Duke of Cambridge had no comment to make on the matter.