Commentary

English FA pushes back from gambling ties

So many times a team or league or official body conducts a review or investigation that leads to nothing, but not so the English Football Association.

It announced that a sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes Coral, which pays the FA about 4 million pounds ($5 million) per year, is being terminated. The four-year deal was to have run through the next three seasons.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said: “We would like to thank Ladbrokes for both being a valued partner over the last year and for their professionalism and understanding about our change of policy around gambling.”

The announcement follows a three-month review into the effects of a betting sponsorship deal on perceptions of the sport and the FA, which has in recent months has cracked down on players and officials connected to gambling on soccer matches and competitions.

Quite inadvertently, the agent of change may be midfielder Joey Barton, who is serving an 18-month ban for placing more than 1,000 bets on soccer games between 2006 and 2013. He was suspended in April and in May was released by Burnley.

The FA has denied its decision is a reaction to the case of Barton and his comments made to the The Sunday Times last week. Barton said, “What are the FA going to do, march into Ladbrokes and say: ‘Show us everyone who’s had a bet on this game?’ Ladbrokes are going to say: ‘Eff off, we pay you 10 million pounds a year [sic], keep your mouth shut.’ Do the FA not understand that’s hush money? Because if they don’t do it to Ladbrokes, they can’t do it to [betting companies] Betfair, Paddy Power, William Hill.

“They’ve given me such a harsh sentence because they want to maintain to the world, to the people who buy TV rights, that this is a very high-integrity game here. People who work for betting companies have told me that’s the key issue. The FA have no actual interest in [tackling] betting. And they can’t solve the problem, especially when they’ve got Ladbrokes as a partner. Because the players are going: ‘I’m not doing anything wrong.’”

FA chairman Greg Clarke has led efforts to separate the FA and its competitions from the rampant betting on soccer and other sports events in the United Kingdom, where many leagues and teams are paid sponsorship monies by bookmakers such as the ones mentioned by Barton. His claims of hypocrisy have been denied by the FA but the sting of his criticism has been felt.

Going forward, the FA will not have a betting sponsor. The FA decision apparently will not be duplicated by the English Football League, which is in the fifth year of a deal with SkyBet.

A spokesman, in effect, passed the ball to the FA in a statement that read, “The EFL is of the firm belief that there is no conflict in having a commercial relationship with the gaming industry, as it is the FA who have the ultimate responsibility of enforcing any breach of the existing betting rules that all those who participate in our competitions have to adhere to.”

3 comments about "English FA pushes back from gambling ties".
  1. John Mcdermott, June 24, 2017 at 7:35 a.m.

    It is beyond me how anyone in a position of authority ever thought that a gambling business of any sort would be an appropriate sponsor for sporting competitions, especially those where huge amounts of money are involved. On the other hand, look how long it took FIFA to decide they didn't want cigarette sponsorship of the World Cup. I remember a press conference at the 1986 World Cup where Havelange angrily defended FIFA's relationship with Camel cigarettes when on Brian Glanville had the temerity to suggest that it might not be compatible with FIFA's supposed goals. I once heard that Chuck Blazer was on the verge of setting up an offshore online soccer gambling business while he was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, but was ultimately dissuaded from doing so by...Sepp Blatter!

  2. Michael Hopcroft, June 24, 2017 at 7:09 p.m.

    American sports have a similar issue with casino sponsorship of teams and broadcasts. Mind you, only in very rare occasions do the casinos involved offer sports wagering, which is only legal in Nevada. And although it has not reached soccer yet, the "daily fantasy" craze has also spread like wildfire in the US.

    Billions are bet on sports in America, much of it on the black market. But our reactions when athletes, coaches, and officials indulge is usually with sheer outrage. There's a case of a pro basketball referee whose response to being accused of affecting games he was officiating in (that he had also bet on) was to accuse the league of rigging just about everything that happens over the course of a year. (His claims are rarely shown to be valid, and nobody believes them.)

  3. Nick Daverese, June 26, 2017 at 6:55 p.m.

    Joe Namath when he was a jet bought a night club. Know gamblers, and mob guys always went there Bachelors 111. He was forced to sell out. The worst place was the one that a former Ny Yankee owned Phil Linz full of hookers, drug dealers, gamblers you name it. It was in that place. I did not even like that place. But a lot of very famous spots guys did. Especially Ed Marenero remember him football player and actor. He practically lived there.

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