Football Association and Bet365 DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Carolyn HarrisMain Page: Carolyn Harris (Labour - Swansea East)
I will respond on behalf of the Secretary of State to this urgent question.
Recent reports on the streaming of FA cup matches by online bookmakers have rightly caused concern across the House. They relate to a media rights deal agreed by the FA with IMG in early 2017, within which IMG could sell on live footage or clips of certain FA cup matches to commercial partners. Bet365 and six other betting operators acquired those rights from IMG to use from the start of 2018-19 season.
It is right that sporting organisations have the freedom to benefit commercially from their products and negotiate their own broadcasting deals, but football authorities also have an important responsibility to ensure that fans are protected from the risks of problem gambling. Since the deal was agreed, the FA has rightly reviewed its position on commercial relationships with gambling firms. It has ended a commercial partnership with Ladbrokes and announced that it will be reviewing its processes for tendering rights from the 2024-25 season onwards, and it is absolutely correct that it does so.
The Secretary of State and I made our views quite clear yesterday and have done so previously on the wider responsibilities of sport and gambling sectors to their fans, their customers and our wider communities. We therefore welcome the fact that the industry has responded to public concern by introducing a whistle-to-whistle ban on TV advertising during daytime sport, and that the FA introduced a rule last year that prevents players, managers and members of staff in any capacity from deliberately taking part in audio or audio-visual advertising to actively encourage betting.
While many people enjoy gambling as a leisure pursuit, we cannot forget that it carries a high risk of harm and can have a serious impact individuals, families and communities. All of us—Governments, gambling companies and sporting authorities—need to keep the momentum going so that we can protect vulnerable people from the risk of gambling-related harm.
I congratulate the hon. Member, who I know is passionate about this issue and has campaigned very effectively in the House. The Government are also very angry about this arrangement, especially after a weekend when the FA worthily highlighted its Heads Together mental health campaign.
I have spoken at some length to the FA since this broke. The arrangement has been in place for some time; the 2017 contract was a rollover of a deal. The Government have asked the Football Association to look at all avenues to review this element of its broadcasting agreement. This element of the broadcast arrangement is for matches that are not chosen for the FA cup online broadcast or do not kick off at 3 pm on a Saturday, and it does open up the opportunity for plenty of other games to be watched, but we have asked the FA in no uncertain terms to look at the deal and to see what opportunities there are to rescind this particular element. I will be meeting face to face with the FA next week.