Who: BetIndex Ltd (Football Index) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) plus Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG)
Where: United Kingdom
When: August 2019
Law stated as at: 30 August 2019
As football fans rejoice in the return of the new Premier League season, the gambling industry has been rapped for featuring players under the age of 25 in ads and the IGRG launches its ‘Whistle to Whistle’ ban on gambling advertising around live sport.
The ASA has upheld a complaint against Football Index, a gambling platform that operates as a footballer stock market, allowing players gamble on the success of real professional footballers. A complainant noticed that the professional footballers featured in a Facebook ad were all under 25 years of age and challenged whether the ad was responsible and whether it breached the CAP Code.
Football Index responded to the challenge that one footballer was featured significantly but the others shown merely as an illustration of the functional features of the platform. Nevertheless, Football Index agreed to withdraw the ad and ensure that its staff were trained in relation to the CAP Code’s requirements and the use of sportspersons under the age of 25.
The ASA upheld the complaint and stated that as the ad was to promote the platform as a whole, all players had equal prominence. The decision also flagged that, while the rule is that no one who is or appears to be under the age of 25 may feature in gambling ads, there is an exception for when the person is the subject of the bet concerned and the ad appears in a place where the bet can be directly placed (for example, on the gambling operator’s own website).
After an announcement in December 2018, the IGRG’s new ‘Whistle to Whistle’ ban on gambling ads around live sports came into effect this August. The change, which is implemented in the IGRG’s Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, means that no gambling ads can be shown during live sport televised before the 9pm watershed for the ‘whistle to whistle’ period (i.e., five minutes before the event begins, and ending five minutes after it finishes). Additional measures include an end to betting adverts around highlight shows and re-runs, and an end to pre-watershed bookmaker sponsorship of sports programmes.
Why this matters:
The Football Index ruling is a good reminder of how the CAP Code’s rules surrounding featuring under-25s in advertising can be applied. Brands should be aware that the rules apply not only to actors depicted undertaking a certain activity (for example, gambling or drinking) but also to any celebrities, influencers and people that may appear in the ad prominently. It is also worth noting how the featured footballers were all significant to the ad even if not the main feature.
The change to the IGRG’s code is a welcome move in the gambling industry. It is expected that the ban will significantly reduce the number of gambling ads seen by children and other vulnerable people and is a positive step in the gambling industry’s drive to be seen as more socially responsible. The move will also be welcomed by non-gambling brands, which may wish to take advantage of these changes and place ads during these valuable breaks.