Football Index App Advert Banned For Using Young Players
The ‘football stock market company Football Index has had a Facebook advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for using images of players who are under 25, which goes against the regulations surrounding betting advertisements.
Adverts are only allowed to feature people under the age of 25 if they are displayed somewhere that you could place a bet, such as in a betting shop or on a betting company’s website.
Complaints were made about the advert because the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Marcus Rashford and Callum-Hudson Odoi appeared in it, who are 20, 21 and 18 respectively. The non-broadcast rules on the issue say that if anyone in an advert has a ‘featured role’ in it then they must be over 25, which none of them are.
Football Index immediately accept the criticism and the advert was taken down, but it comes at a bad time for the betting industry as it faces continued questions regarding its link with football.
What Was The Problem
The advert featured Jadon Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund player, in a prominent manner and informed people that they’d have been able to make a ‘handsome profit’ if they’d owned shares in the player. Sancho is only 19, meaning that critics of gambling believe that he was being used to target young people.
Football Index allows users to buy and sell shares in real footballers, with the shares going up or down depending on how they perform or if they’re sold in a high-profile transfer.
A recent report released by the University of Bristol and a think-tank called Demos, which is entitled ‘The Biddable Youth’, looked at various forms of adverts used on social media. It found that as much as 68% of the 880,000 tweets it analysed from ‘traditional sports’ were aimed at young people.
That figure jumped even higher to 74% if you limited the search to tweets from eSports companies, targeting younger audiences that play games such as Fortnite. The flouting of legislation surrounding betting companies on social media platforms will be areal concern for regulators.
Football Index Accepted Criticism
Football Index’s Marketing Director, Mike Bohan, released a statement in which he confirmed that the company had accepted the criticism and had ‘reviewed its marketing practices’ in order to make sure that any future advertisements would be done in accordance with the regulations in place and that matched the company’s ‘socially responsible platform’. He also declared that Football Index ‘consider the matter closed’.
Football Index may well have accepted responsibility and feel that that is the end of the matter, but it’s likely to reignite criticism of the gambling industry’s relationship with football. It comes at a time when the Bishop of St Albans has been critical of Derby County Football Club for making a deal with online casino 32Red to partially fund the return of Wayne Rooney to English football, with the former Everton and Manchester United striker wearing shirt number 32 this season as part of the tie-up.
Does The Subject Lack Self-Awareness?
There’s an extent to which Football Index might look at gambling’s relationship with football and feel as though the company has been somewhat unfairly singled out. After all, 27 of the 44 teams in the Premier League and Championship will spend the season wearing shirts sponsored by gambling companies, the highest amount of all time.
Given that the average age of Manchester United’s starting XI is 24.5, for example, it suggests that the idea of criticising Football Index at the same time as players under the age of 25 will be wearing shirts emblazoned with gambling company logos is a tad hypocritical.
Premier League teams are set to make £349.1 million from shirt sponsorship during the 2019-2020 season, of which approximately £69 million will come from betting companies. 10 out of the 20 Premier League sides are sponsored by companies within the gambling industry, whilst 17 of the 24 teams in the Championship are in the same situation.
Many of the teams that aren’t sponsored by one still has a deal in place where one will be the ‘official betting partner’ of the firm or similar. Obviously children who hero-worship the players that play for their club will watch them playing in such a shirt and have posters of them on their walls.
Companies Can Do More To Stop Children Seeing Adverts
With that in mind, is what Football Index have done really that bad in the grand scheme of things? Professor Agnes Nairn of Bristol University thinks so. She pointed out that many of the adverts on social media platforms use ‘amusing gifs, memes, pictures and funny stories’ in order to ‘fly under the radar’ of parents and target young people. The fact that the adverts are also online means that parents don’t necessarily know how many their wards are being ‘bombarded’ with.
The report by Demos was keen to draw regulators’ attention to the fact that companies are ‘flouting the regulations’ put in place regarding advertisements, which is allowing them to target children. The Bishop of St Albans believes that the industry needs to act now in order to ‘stop the next generation of gambling harm’. The Demos report, meanwhile, points out that technology companies can do more to make use of age verification tools that exist as well as employing better screening tests, with the idea being that children would then see fewer of these sorts of adverts.
Gambling Industry Is Making Changes
It’s worth noting that the gambling industry is already making changes, including the introduction of the recent self-imposed ban on advertising during live sporting matches that are broadcast before 9pm. It came into effect ahead of the recent Ashes cricket series and will also apply whistle-to-whistle during football matches. The gambling industry felt that it was a move that it needed make in order to avoid legislation being forced upon it by the government.
During the 2018 World Cup, 90 minutes of gambling adverts were shown from the start of the competition to the moment that England got knocked out, which accounted for far more of the adverts than had been bought by any other industry.
With children watching the tournament on a regular basis, it’s perhaps no wonder that the Bishop of St Albans believes that young people are people ‘groomed into gambling’. Given that they weren’t the only company to have created adverts that went against the ASA’s rules, Football Index will likely be watching with a keen eye to see which other companies are pulled up on their use of social media.