Football Index is a site that allows people to buy and sell ‘shares’ in real footballers that is based on a stock market-type model. The better a player does the more his price goes up, allowing punters to make real-life money from them. The company was recently in hot water with the Advertising Standards Authority, however, because they created an advert for Facebook that used a host of footballers who were aged under twenty-five at the time that the advert went to press.
The likes of nineteen-year-old Jadon Sancho, eighteen-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi and twenty-four-year-old Raheem Sterling were all used in the advert. The problem arose when complaints about the advert were made because the current non-broadcast advertising rules state that nobody under the age of twenty-five should be shown to be placing bets or have any sort of significant role in an advert for a gambling product, unless the ad is placed somewhere that a bet can be made. Football Index accepted the criticism, but it does open the door to questions about football’s relationship with gambling.
The advert for Football Index told people that they would have made a ‘handsome profit’ if they’d had shares in Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and traded said shares, displaying an image of Sancho. They also used images of other young footballers such as Marcus Rashford, who is twenty-one, and Kylian Mbappé, who is twenty. The fact that the advert was displayed on the social media site Facebook is what caused the issue, with Football Index likely to have been let off if they’d had it on their own website or on display in a bookmaker’s premises.
We’ve published our latest batch of rulings https://t.co/dbGYsX8oPm Amongst this week’s cases, we examine claims that a chocolate could slow down the ageing process and found a gambling firm irresponsibly featured under-25s (footballers) in its ad. pic.twitter.com/aXT2Y1p2wf
— ASA (@ASA_UK) 21 August 2019
There is a growing concern that gambling is becoming appealing to young people, with the think-tank Demos and the University of Bristol looking at more than eight hundred thousand tweets and analysing them, noticing that more than quarter of retweets or replies to tweets were from people under the age of sixteen. The Biddable Youth report by Demos drew particular attention to the world of eSports, noting that nearly three-quarters of tweets on the subject failed to comply with advertising regulations.
The University of Bristol’s Professor Agnes Nairn said that one of the biggest problems is that parents are often completely unaware of the fact that children are being ‘bombarded’ with promotions for gambling companies and pastimes. She said that the main issue was the fact that it was flying ‘under the radar’ in not one but two ways. Firstly the fact it’s online means that many parents don’t know anything about, whilst the fact that the various marketing techniques are using ‘amusing gifs, memes, pictures and funny stories’ is something that is appealing to young people specifically.
Quick question for #FootballIndex Traders:
How did you first hear of @FootballIndex ?
— Mike Bohan (@MikeB_FI) 14 August 2019
The report believes that technology companies could make use of the age verification tools and some different screening tests in order to ensure that young people don’t see gambling adverts. Given that the Demos report believes that ‘tens of thousands’ of people under the age of sixteen are being exposed to gambling messages by companies that are flouting regulations by using social media, it’s no wonder that the Football Index advert has been clamped down upon so thoroughly be regulators.
Football Index ‘Consider The Matter Closed’
Whilst Football Index has come under criticism for the advert the company was quick to accept liability. Mike Bohan, the company’s Marketing Director, said in a statement, “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”.
The company’s admission of guilt may well have come through gritted teeth, especially considering there have been a number of other betting companies who have been up to questionable behaviour of later. There has been widespread criticism of Derby County, for example, for entering into an agreement with online casino 32Red. The Church of England were critical of the club and Wayne Rooney, whose move there from America has been partly funded by the casino and will see him wear shirt number 32 this season.
Industry Needs To Do More
The Football Index story has come at one of the worst times for the gambling industry, which continues to come under continued criticism for its links to sport. The public has been so critical of the feeling of wall-to-wall adverts promoting gambling companies that the betting industry has voluntarily agreed to impose a ban on advertising during live sport. The self-imposed ban took effect from the start of the recent Ashes series and will be in play on televised events prior to 9pm.
The main criticism stemmed from children being subjected to betting advertisements during the 2018 World Cup, with ITV showing a full football match’s worth of gambling adverts between the start of the tournament and the moment that England were knocked out by Croatia in the semi-final. It’s little wonder, therefore, that the decision to clamp down on Football Index’s advert was taken so quickly. Yet the Demos and University of Bristol’s report suggests that 68% of traditional sport’s tweets flouted advertising regulations, meaning that there’s still a long way to go before betting isn’t so normalised.
In amongst all of this, of course, there’s also the fact that the wrist-slapping for Football Index is somewhat hypocritical. In the ongoing 2019-2020 season, for example, half of all Premier League teams are sponsored by a betting company. The division as a whole was primed to make a record figure of £349.1 million from shirt sponsorship, which was up more than 10% on the season before. Around £69 million of that will come from betting companies. It’s even worse in the second-tier, given that seventeen of the twenty-four Championship clubs are being sponsored by betting companies.
With that in mind, then, isn’t there a degree of irony that the Advertising Standards Authority have decided to clamp down on Football Index at a time when twenty-seven of the top forty-four clubs in England are all wearing shirts emblazoned with the logo of a betting company? After all, many of the players at clubs such as Bournemouth, Everton and West Ham are under twenty-five and will be wearing kits that kids will see them play in on a weekly basis. The Bishop of St. Albans said last year that the number of betting companies sponsoring football shirts suggested that children were being ‘groomed into gambling’.