BetVictor has been ordered to remove a Facebook advert by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaching Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) guidelines.
The post in question featured an image of two FC Barcelona players, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, with a caption stating ‘“Who is the most underrated player at the club you support?’, featuring the BetVictor logo.
As Barcelona are a prominent team and both Alba and Busquets are active players, the ASA challenged whether the ad breached CAP codes by featuring ‘high-risk’ public figures with an appeal to under-18s.
BetVictor asserted to the ASA that the players’ ‘association with the subject was not a basis alone for a ruling against the operator, and that as Barcelona is not a top-flight UK side, Alba and Busquets would not be widely known to UK audiences, especially in comparison to other international footballers who have played for the Catalonia club, such as Lionel Messi.
The fact that neither play in an attacking or goal-scoring positions and had not scored for the Spanish national team against England, Wales or Scotland in their careers, adds credence to BetVictor’s claims.
Regarding social media, BetVictor defended its action by pointing to the two footballers’ preference for Instagram and Twitter – which have a more diverse age audience – as opposed to TikTok, Twitch and Snapchat, favoured by younger consumers.
Lastly, the group cited SEO data in its defence, arguing that neither could be called ‘true top-flight’ players in the eyes of British sports fans due to having significantly less searches than the likes of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe.
Interestingly, in the case of Busquets, the operator observed that the number of UK searches for the player amounted to just 13% and 15% of total searches for retired players and pundits Micah Richards and Peter Crouch.
This is noteworthy as both have a history of commercial work with bookmakers, specifically with Sky Bet and Paddy Power respectively. Back in February, the ASA ruled in favour of both brands in this regard, stating that retired players ‘medium-risk’ and of low appeal to under-18s.
“This latest ruling gives us a clearer picture of which football players the ASA considers to be captured by the new guidelines,” said Felix Faulkner, Solicitor at igaming law firm Poppleston Allen.
“This is the first time we’ve had a ruling on players who play for teams outside the UK, which widens the scope beyond what the ASA has looked at previously in terms of the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) guidance that came into effect in October last year.”
In BetVictor’s case, the ASA elaborated: “BetVictor said that whilst they understood the post was considered by the ASA as an ad because it was paid-for, the post had been designed to engage people in conversation about topics they would be interested in.
“They said that there were no comments, links or calls to action back to betting sites or logos in the post (other than their own). They said it had only been paid-for to ensure the ad had been appropriately targeted to users aged 25 and over. They said data they had from Facebook showed that 100% of the post’s viewers were over the age of 25.”
Despite the robust defence put up by the online sportsbook, the ASA ruled against BetVictor, stating that Alba and Busquets can be considered ‘star players’ due to their history of competing with high-profile Barcelona and appearing for the Spanish national team in last year’s World Cup.
As both compete at a European level, the ASA deemed that they could be classed as ‘high-risk’, whilst as the ad was placed on Facebook BetVictor could not have fully excluded all under-18s from viewing it, as opposed to using marketing lists validated by payment data or credit checking.
Faulkner concluded: “Previous rulings have made clear that current Premier League players are out of bounds but that there is a case to be made for using retired players in some circumstances.
“This latest ruling takes us a step further and suggests any player in a major overseas league, particularly those playing for the big clubs, is a risky choice for gambling operators.
“Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, the two players in question, are not the biggest of names, as was evidenced by Bet Victor’s research. However, the ASA has taken a hard line and determined that they still fall into the ‘high risk’ category.”