The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has banned betting sponsorships, although this does not extend to clubs in the League of Ireland.
In Ireland, demands for severing links between betting operators and sports clubs have become stronger, with two of the country’s main sporting organisations – the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) – openly embracing the proposal.
The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has joined these organisations in advocating for the ban of gambling advertisements during live coverage of sporting events.
However, the FAI’s announcement comes after two sponsorship deals between Irish professional football clubs were announced. Dundalk FC, the FAI Cup holders, signed a contract with BetRegal in December 2020, while Shamrock Rovers, based in Dublin, recently signed a deal with 888, an online betting and gaming company.
Shelved Paddy Power And FAI alliance
About this, an FAI-Paddy Power alliance was recently shelved. The authority’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Hill, said a contract with a betting company was “not something they wanted to pursue.”
Mark Scanlon, Director of the League of Ireland, on the other hand, has taken a laissez-faire approach to gambling sponsorship, saying: “We are quite happy with our own stance but club matters are internal.”
“As long as they fit within Uefa regulation and FAI regulations, we’re happy with that. These things have continued to evolve over the last number of years; we have seen regulations come into place for areas like alcohol sponsorship and so on.”
‘Hands off policy’
When asked whether the betting operators’ deals with the two major football clubs were giving a misleading message to the Irish people, Scanlon remained adamant about the League’s hands-off policy, saying, “We made our decisions internally within the FAI and the board of the FAI, who considered all situations when deciding sponsors.”
The controversy over Irish sports’ association with the gaming industry has moved beyond the regulatory bodies and into the world of politics. Last month, the Irish Labour Party proposed the Gambling (Prohibition of Advertising) Bill 2021, which, if passed, would impose a “whistle-to-whistle” ban on gambling commercials during television broadcasts.
This came after the Dáil passed the ‘Interim Gaming and Lotteries Act’ in December 2020, laying the groundwork for a major overhaul of Ireland’s gambling laws in 2021.