Football TV broadcaster slammed for ‘pure greed’ over betting ad farce

Television companies are facing criticism for rushing out gambling adverts in so-called ‘turbo ad breaks’ seconds after the 9pm watershed to exploit a loophole in the whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising during live matches.

This practice has become increasingly common since the ban was introduced last August, with a Betway advert shown on Sky Sports last Friday just 46 seconds after the watershed — and moments before the start of the broadcaster’s second-half coverage of Sheffield United’s win over West Ham.

Gambling companies are increasingly buying slots in the short breaks before the second half for matches that kick off at 8pm. These generally fall just after the 9pm watershed, enabling them to gain exposure without flouting the ban. The sought-after advertising space during live matches is generally bought months in advance, shortly after the televised games have been confirmed.

Sky Sports were twice forced to apologise at the start of the season for breaching the regulations, which were introduced on August 1, with adverts for Sky Bet and Bet365 erroneously broadcast in their coverage of a Premier League and Scottish Premier League game respectively. The whistle-to-whistle ban, which was brought in voluntarily by the bookmakers last year, prevents them placing television adverts from five minutes before kick-off until five minutes after the final whistle — until the 9pm watershed.

Horseracing and greyhound racing are exempt from the ban due to the role the gambling industry plays in funding those sports through the Levy.

The ban was introduced amid concerns that the high level of betting advertising surrounding football — with 90 minutes of adverts shown during the 2018 World Cup, the vast majority of which came before the watershed — was leading to a dramatic rise in gambling among children.

Campaigners have questioned the effectiveness of the ban, however, due to the preponderance of betting adverts on shirts and in stadiums. A study conducted by the charity Gambling With Lives revealed more than 2,000 gambling marketing references in five televised matches.

In last month’s Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Bournemouth there were 974 gambling references, appearing on average once every 15 seconds, with traditional commercial breaks accounting for only one per cent of marketing.

Half of the 20 Premier League clubs and 15 out of 24 in the Championship have engaged betting companies as their main shirt sponsor. The vast majority of others have entered into commercial partnerships with bookies, with the result that betting branding adorns their stadiums.

Brian Chappell of the Justice for Punters pressure group questioned the effectiveness of the whistle-to-whistle ban and criticised broadcasters for their reliance on gambling revenue.

‘It is pure tokenism as you can see by how quick they are to show adverts after 9pm,’ he said. ‘The whole thing is a sham. There may be no adverts during games before the watershed but from the moment the players walk on to the pitch, viewers are bombarded with gambling adverts on shirts and electronic hoardings. It’s just reputational management by the bookies. The gambling industry’s takeover of football has been extraordinary. They have colluded with the football authorities and clubs through pure greed. The bookies realised the majority of people betting on racing were old men like me so they needed to take over football.’


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