BetIndex Ltd, the parent company of the football stock market site Football Index, have become the latest gambling operator to breach advertising rules around the use of underage role models.
Last Wednesday, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint made against a Facebook advert for Football Index that used an image of five ‘underage’ footballers including 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jadon Sancho.
For those that don’t know, The Football Index works as a kind of stock exchange for players, allowing site users to trade footballers with their stock rising or falling based on performances and media accounts. This particular troublesome promo labelled Sancho The Big Mover while boasting about profits made by users that had backed him.
The complaint against the ad centered on the fact that a 19-year-old featured prominently in an advert for a gaming company, which is in direct violation of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code. This code strictly outlaws the use of anyone who is either under 25 years of age or appears to be under 25 from playing a significant role in gambling marketing campaigns.
Over 25’s Only
Currently, adverts for gambling operators are only allowed to feature people under the age of 25 if they appear in a betting shop or on a betting company’s website where you are physically able to place a bet. Simultaneously, non-broadcast rules state that any person starring in a featured role must be over 25, which no one featured in the ad are.
BetIndex, who withdrew the ad voluntarily and promised to re-educate staff on acceptable ad practices, argued that the athletes used in the campaign had only been selected for the express purpose of demonstrating how Football Index works. They also argued that the players involved, which also included Kylian Mbappé (20), Marcus Rashford (21) and Callum-Hudson Odoi (18) and Raheem Sterling (24), were not shown to be actively gambling themselves and weren’t promoting the gambling function of the site.
Football Index’s Marketing Director, Mike Bohan, added; “We have reviewed our marketing practices to ensure they are compliant with the advertising regulations and accurately represent Football Index’s socially responsible platform. We now consider the matter closed.”
This point was duly recognised by ASA but still “considered that of equal measure was its aim to offer the audience an opportunity to use the app for the purposes of gambling. All listed footballers were the focus of the post [so] each of them played an equally significant role”, and so the original complaint was upheld.
Four years ago in 2015, social media also led to trouble for betting sites Bet365, Coral and Totesport after they were all targeted by ASA of using an image of professional golfer Jordan Spieth, who was 22 at the time. The ASA decreed that Spieth had played a significant role in the posts which were viewable by the underage on a social media site.
Such restrictions are in place due to growing concerns around young gamblers. In a country where the number of children classed as having a gambling problem has quadrupled to more than 50,000 in just two years, it was clear that attitudes need to change. This has led the charity GambleAware to launch Bet Regret which targets an audience of around 2.4 million people in the UK aged between 16-34 who gamble regularly on sport.
The first wave of the campaign, which launched in February, took place in the back end of the 2018/19 season and now the charity are about to push forward with the second wave of activity to promote safer gambling. According to GambleAware, the initiative had a 61% rate of recognition among its intended audience.
This second wave will centre once again on the feeling of deep remorse experienced by losing bettors but has been updated with the tagline Think Twice or You’ll Bet Regret it.
The latest move of activity is supported by a sponsorship across England and Scotland from GVC Holdings, which is to see the firm donate numerous football sponsorship assets. Under payment from GVC, the firm will remove active sponsorships – GVC brand Ladbrokes sponsor the Scottish FA – with the Bet Regret logo featuring prominently instead. Those affected by the donation are all 42 clubs in the Scottish Football League (SPFL) as well as Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Burnley, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United.
GVC have also confirmed that they will not be extending their deal with the SPFL after it expires at the end of the 2019-20 season.