Football pundits Harry Redknapp, Peter Crouch and Robbie Keane are helping to promote betting on World Cup matches despite stricter rules on celebrity gambling endorsements to protect young people.
Fifa officials estimate the last World Cup generated £120bn in betting turnover. Gambling companies hope for a similar betting spree for this year’s tournament, despite a ban on gambling in Qatar.
Redknapp, the former West Ham and Spurs manager, who won the television show I’m a Celebrity …Get Me Out of Here! in 2018, is promoting BetVictor’s World Cup coverage with an advertising campaign and expert commentary on the brand’s website.
Former England striker Crouch is a brand ambassador for gambling firm Paddy Power, appearing in advertising for the tournament. He also features on a Paddy Power-backed “album”, the seven-minute long Crouchy Conducts the Classics, with profits donated to the charity Stonewall.
It was announced last month that Keane, the former Tottenham player and Republic of Ireland international, had become a brand ambassador for Betway. He will provide expert opinion for the World Cup.
New rules came into force on 1 October in the UK to stop celebrities with a “strong appeal” to young people promoting gambling. The Advertising Standards Authority, the independent regulator, said the new rules would “significantly” affect gambling advertisers using celebrities and prominent sportspeople.
The ban covers footballers at top clubs, but the guidelines say former players or managers are less likely to appeal to young people. The guidance says “retired footballers who have moved into punditry/commentary will be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profile”.
Tom Fleming, a spokesperson for the charity Gambling with Lives, which supports families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, claimed the use of celebrities to promote gambling during the World Cup was against the spirit of the new rules.
He said: “The barrage of gambling advertising around the World Cup will lead to many people’s addiction. No one, let alone ex-footballers, should be promoting highly addictive products, which is why the government must end all gambling advertising and marketing.”
Ministers said in December 2020 they were reviewing gambling laws, which would include advertising and football sponsorship. The white paper has been delayed four times, but is expected shortly.
The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) said it was concerned the promotion of gambling during the World Cup would “help to normalise gambling” and “cause a spike in the numbers of people experiencing gambling-related harm”.
Greg Fell, vice-president of the ADPH, said: “We know that using celebrities is likely to increase interest from children and young people. It is critical that the government acts to regulate marketing and promotion in the interests of public health.”
Research published last week by the charity GambleAware found six out of 10 football fans thought there were too many gambling ads during international football tournaments. It has launched a campaign, backed by the Football Supporters’ Association, to help protect fans.
In addition to advertising and marketing in the UK, there is a drive by global betting brands to maximise revenues in international markets. It was announced last week that recently sacked Aston Villa manager and former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard would be a brand ambassador for M88 Mansion for the World Cup tournament, focusing on the Asian market.
The Betting and Gaming Council, which promotes the betting and gaming industry, said: “The regulated betting and gaming industry provides some of the country’s most popular sport with vital funding.”
The council said the industry voluntarily agreed in 2019 to a “whistle to whistle” ban on TV ads during sporting events before the 9pm watershed, starting five minutes before the event began and ending five minutes after it finished.
Flutter, which operates the Paddy Power brand, said: “We work very hard to ensure we comply with all applicable regulations around the use of celebrities, and we firmly believe we lead the way on safer gambling. We hope the country can enjoy our advert in the spirit it is intended.”
BetVictor said its campaign complied with all relevant regulations.