A united industry response to the FA Cup ‘bet-to-watch’ developments
Recent news over the FA Cup’s broadcasting agreement with gambling operators cast the industry into the public and political limelight. It prompted questions about the ‘gamblification of sport’, and whether any sport should only be available on betting websites.
Of course, many customers watch sport on betting platforms. Streaming of live sport is an important part of the experience, but none of the companies who signed the deal with the Football Association in 2017 sought exclusivity.
The subsequent public and political backlash stemmed from concerns about exclusivity, particularly for something as well known as the FA Cup which is quite rightly an essential part of our nation’s sporting history.
Our role at the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) was to coordinate swift and decisive action. It demonstrated the importance of collaboration between our members in response to the critical issues facing our industry. We made the following public statement:
“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 was well received, and we welcome the subsequent announcement from Nigel Adams, Minister for Sport, Media and Creative Industries, after discussions with the FA:
‘The FA have confirmed that no FA Cup matches will be exclusively streamed through gambling operators from this year’s fourth round, through to the end of its current domestic broadcast contract in 2021. No individual will need to access a gambling account to see their team play in the FA Cup, which we welcome as a positive step in the right direction.’
There is of course a cost for any broadcaster to stream live sport. Regularly sending camera crews to matches where the television audience is small can often lead to selective decisions about which matches to broadcast. Betting shops, and now betting websites, have been showing live sport since SIS was created to sell picture rights from racecourses in 1986. These arrangements provide valuable funding to sports. Ultimately, we want sports to use their income to develop their teams, to generate social participation at all levels, and to make our nation more active.
The BGC is continuing its work on sponsorship and advertising and looks forward to bringing out new codes of practice in due course to address concerns on these topics.