DCMS ‘very angry’ over FA streaming rights deal

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has weighed in on the debate surrounding the Football Association’s streaming rights, with Sports Minister Nigel Adams saying that the government is ‘very angry’ with the current arrangement.

Reported by the BBC, Adams has confirmed that the government is due to be holding talks with the FA regarding the sale of its broadcasting rights to bookmakers.

Earlier this week, the sporting body agreed to carry out a review of such agreements awarded to sports betting operators after the coverage of numerous FA Cup matches were broadcast on betting websites.

“I have spoken to the FA,” Adams said. “The Prime Minister has made his views very clear.

“[The FA is] also looking at all options to see if this current deal can be restricted.”

“We’re very angry as a government as well with this arrangement, especially on a weekend when the FA very worthily had the Heads Up mental health campaign,” said Adams in response to an urgent question in the House of Commons from Labour MP Carolyn Harris.

“We have asked the FA to look at this current deal, see what opportunities there are to rescind this particular element of the deal, and I will be meeting with the FA next week.

“It’s absolutely right that the FA – [and] all sporting bodies who have links with sponsors across all sectors – need to be very mindful of impact that such deals have on vulnerable people.”

A report carried out by the Daily Mail found that coverage of 23 of the 32 FA Cup third-round ties that took place last weekend were accessible via the bet365 website on the conditions that customers staked a bet or signed up for a new account with a £5 deposit.

In 2017, the FA had agreed to a six-year deal with IMG which allowed the broadcasting rights to be sold to bookmakers from the start of the 2018/19 season. The agreement is not due to finish until the end of the 2023/24 campaign.

Following the reports about the media rights for screening FA Cup games, Brigid Simmonds, Chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “Our members did not seek exclusivity for the rights to screen FA cup games.

“They are therefore happy for IMG to offer the rights to screen these games to the Football Association or another appropriate body so that the games can be viewed for free by the public with immediate effect.”

The statement from the BGC has received the backing of bet365, GVC, Flutter, William Hill and Kindred. Back in July 2017, the FA confirmed that it would cut all ties with betting firms after ending its commercial deal with Ladbrokes. The sporting body has since confirmed that it is unable to terminate the agreement which permits coverage on the bet365 site due to the long-term nature of the deal.

“This arrangement is not solely through Bet365. There are six other gambling companies who do have the rights to these broadcasts,” continued Adams.

“I have a number of commitments from the FA in this regard. They will not be renewing this deal when it comes up. They’re also looking at all options to see if this current deal can be restricted.

“I would urge all other sporting bodies to look at their broadcast agreements.”

He added: “It is absolutely right that the FA act urgently on this.

“They are – it’s fair to say from the conversation I had this morning – more than embarrassed from this situation and we will be making it very clear when we have a face-to-face meeting with them next week what steps we expect them to take next.”

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