Chelsea and Liverpool have been forced to suspend all advertising with controversial global betting partner 1xBET just a week after Tottenham announced they had terminated their agreement with the gambling firm.
Both Premier League clubs have been contacted by the UK Gambling Commission to advise that they risked being prosecuted under the Gambling Act for unlawful advertising if they continued to use 1xBET logos and promotions because the firm have had their licence suspended in the UK.
The move is a major embarrassment for both clubs, who only this summer announced lucrative deals with the Cyprus-based firm, which is understood to be Russian-owned. It will increase the pressure for government legislation to limit the amount football clubs and players can be used to encourage gambling.
After The Mail on Sunday reported on the suspension of 1xBET’s licence in Kenya in July, where the company were using England captain Harry Kane’s image to entice people to gamble, Tottenham revealed that they would be contacting 1xBET to express their concerns.
Tottenham then ended their relationship with the firm last weekend — but that still leaves Chelsea and Liverpool with agreements with the company, although all trace of the firm has been removed from their websites.
The firm’s UK licence was suspended after reports of their websites hosting betting on cock fighting, children’s sport and using pornography to encourage betting.
It comes in the week that Huddersfield were fined by the FA for a shirt-sponsorship stunt with bookmaker Paddy Power and shines further light on the seemingly unhealthy relationships between gambling firms and Premier League clubs, where 10 clubs are sponsored by betting companies.
In the Championship, 17 out of 24 club shirts are sponsored by betting firms. Labour has said that it will outlaw gambling advertising on football shirts if elected.
Both Liverpool and Chelsea are understood to be in discussion with 1xBET, having been made aware of the licensing issues and have agreed to suspend advertising.
But the fact that the firm were able to sign up such major clubs — and also have a deal with Barcelona — appears to be a major lapse of due diligence, given that 1xBET were issued with a ‘cease and desist’ notice by the Premier League itself in December 2017 for illegally streaming Premier League games.
Tottenham have been the first club to act decisively after The Mail on Sunday drew attention to the fact that their licence was suspended in Kenya after the government accused them of being one of the firms responsible for an epidemic in youth gambling.
1xBET were still using large billboard adverts of England captain Kane and Dele Alli to entice customers to gamble in July this year.
1xBET were allowed to use the players’ images even though players and managers are banned by the FA from having their own personal deal with gambling firms. The FA fined Everton’s Yerry Mina for appearing in a Colombian gambling advert.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has called on the FA to close the loophole and ban all use of players and managers in gambling averts. ‘Given the levels of gambling addiction in the UK and Kenya, it’s time to make rules about gambling adverts and sponsorships much tighter,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘Fans are bombarded with gambling ads and it’s not right.’
1xBET are investigating how their brand came to be promoted on prohibited sites and have temporarily halted advertising in the UK.