The British government has urged the Football Association to “reconsider” its relationship with bookmaker Bet365 as concerns grow over the link between problem gambling and mental health issues.
The gambling website streamed 23 third-round FA Cup games at the weekend as part of a deal signed with the FA in January 2017.
The matches were only available to watch if the customer had placed a bet or put £5 ($6.50) in an account in the 24 hours before kick-off.
All third-round matches were delayed by one minute to publicise the FA’s “Heads Up” mental health campaign, backed by FA president Prince William.
The FA agreed a media rights deal with IMG, a sports management company, in early 2017, which permits IMG to sell the rights to show live footage or clips of FA Cup matches to bookmakers. Bet365 acquired these rights from the start of the 2018/19 season.
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The FA has said it will review this element of its sale of media rights. The Bet365 deal is due to run until 2024.
However, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nicky Morgan appeared to call on the governing body to look at the deal to see if there was any way out before that.
“This is a contractual matter for the FA & Bet365 but things have moved on since the contract was signed & I hope they will reconsider,” she tweeted.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We believe it’s a matter for the Football Association, but we believe it should reconsider its deal with Bet365.”
Sports minister Nigel Adams tweeted: “The gambling landscape has changed since this deal was signed in early 2017.
“All sports bodies need to be mindful of the impact that problem gambling can have on the most vulnerable.”
Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association, said: “This deal highlights the major concerns fans have about the growth of gambling in football — governing bodies need to take these concerns seriously.”