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Industry hits out at FA’s ‘fair return’ plans

| By iGB Editorial Team
National governing body hopes to raise more funds for grassroots football

Various bookmakers and industry organisations have blasted a proposal by the English Football Association (FA) to introduce a levy on bets to help raise more funds for grassroots sports initiatives.

Last week, FA chief executive Martin Glenn said such a move could help push funds for the national governing body’s ‘Football Foundation’ initiative past £100m (€112.5m/$128.3m).

Glenn said the FA is seeking alternate options for funding after the £600m deal involving American Shahid Khan to purchase Wembley Stadium from the body fell through earlier this month.

However, the plans have been met with criticism by the gambling sector, with various parties hitting out at Glenn and the FA for targeting betting for more money.

Betway, which currently sponsors Premier League club West Ham United, told iGamingBusinesess.com in a statement that the firm already spends “millions of pounds” each year on football through various means.

The statement said: “We consider Betway to be a significant investor in football already, spending as we do, millions of pounds each year on not only our flagship sponsorship of West Ham United but also on a range of other marketing and advertising assets in both the Premier League and Championship.

“The positive effects of these investments are already being felt at grassroots level where there are some tremendous community and participation models in action.

“At West Ham United, for instance, their Community Foundation in partnership with Football Foundation recently invested £400,000 in a new 3G pitch at their facility in Beckton which is used by 15,000 participants of all age groups annually, and they have ambitious targets for increasing participation over the next few years.”

Gillian Wilmot, chair of industry association the Senet Group, has also hit out at the plans, saying betting companies “already pay significantly above the market rate for the right to advertise alongside live sport”.

Wilmot added: “This is money which flows to broadcasters and ultimately benefits sport through the sale of broadcast rights.

“Instead of looking to further monetise gambling’s relationship with live sport, the FA, clubs and broadcasters should be looking to work with the gambling industry to reduce the amount of gambling advertising around football. This is in the interests of protecting young people from any potential future harm.”

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, also had a similar viewpoint, telling Press Association Sport “there is no basis” to support a levy on betting.

Hawkswood said: “The British betting industry already pays for the use of football’s intellectual property rights, not least through contractual arrangements with Football Data Co.

“Alongside that, significant funds flow from the betting to the football industries through a range of commercial partnerships such as sponsorship, advertising and joint ventures.

“If the football authorities wish to use some of those funds to support grassroots football then that is an option they might consider, but there is no basis whatsoever for the introduction of a statutory betting levy to support what most people would consider to be an extremely wealthy sport.”

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