The UK government has asked the Football Association to reconsider a streaming rights deal that gives betting companies exclusive access to some FA Cup ties.
The 2017 accord saw the FA sell the rights to betting firms like Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power, via a third-party marketing firm.
The deal requires football fans to place a bet using the service or deposit £5 into their betting account before they can watch the games. While this deal was struck before the FA resolved not to accept sponsorships from betting sites, amid a wider societal acknowledgement of the dangers of gambling addiction, the government has been urged to act.
An Urgent Question was submitted within the House of Commons this week, and the Football Association has opened talks with the companies over a potential withdrawal from the arrangement.
Speaking on behalf of the betting companies, Brigid Simmonds, the chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, offered the FA a way out of the deal, and the controversy.
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She said (via The Guardian): “Our members did not seek exclusivity for the rights to screen FA cup games. They are therefore happy for IMG to offer the rights to screen these games to the Football Association or another appropriate body so that the games can be viewed for free by the public with immediate effect.”
This is currently the penultimate year of the accord. From the 2021-22 season, the FA will be broadcasting all of its FA Cup matches, not picked up by the TV companies, on its own website anyway. However, the climbdown from the betting firms would see that start immediately.
Nigel Adams, a junior minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “I’ve been very clear that the government has asked the FA to look at all avenues to review this element of their broadcasting agreement.”
He plans a meeting with the FA to “see what opportunities there are to rescind this part of the deal.”