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Gambling Advertising: under 18s players and under 18s coaches

Foot on soccer ball Print publication

02/05/2018

In light of Newcastle United’s recent fine from The Football Association for allowing its under-18s team to display a betting brand on the front of their shirts, this note aims to provide information and further clarity as regards the display of a betting brand on the kit of:

  • a team wholly comprised of players under the age of 18;
  • a coach of a team wholly comprised of players under the age of 18; and
  • an individual player who is under the age of 18.

Introduction

The Gambling Commission’s (GC) Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) regulate all gambling advertising stringently. The GC requires adverts to be clear, transparent and fair – consistent with one of the three licensing objectives under the Gambling Act 2005: ensuring that gambling is provided in a fair and open way.

The LCCP also advises all gambling operators to advertise their products in a socially responsible way (Note: this is what is known as an Ordinary Code Provision, which doesn’t have the force of a Licence Condition but will still be enforced against operators by the GC). This means complying with the Committee of Advertising Practice’s Code of Practice (CAP) and any other industry-specific guidance.

CAP insists that gambling advertising must not be specifically directed at the underage. In addition, advertisements of gambling products may not show anyone under the age of 25, or appearing to be aged under 25, participating in gambling or “playing a significant role”. It is our view that “playing a significant role” means playing a significant role in gambling.  This note will seek to address whether the display of a betting brand on a football kit can reasonably be perceived to be playing a significant role in gambling.

The FA Kit and Advertising Regulations (the Regulations)

The Regulations state, at Regulation A.5., that:

“A club shall observe all recognised advertising standards and in particular those of the Advertising Standards Authority.”

Regulation A.8. also states (inter alia) that:

“…in the case of a team comprising players all under the age of 18 years on 31 August in the current season, the appearance on or incorporation in any item of clothing of any reference whatsoever to a product, service or other activity which is considered by The Association as detrimental to the welfare, health or general interest of young persons, or is otherwise considered inappropriate, having regard to the age of the players, is prohibited.”

The Regulations give explicit examples of this as alcohol and gambling, and so this note should be deemed to apply equally to the display of alcohol brands.

A team wholly comprised of players under the age of 18

The Regulations are absolutely clear: a Club should not allow a team wholly comprised of players under the age of 18 to display a betting (or alcohol) brand on its kit. This was the situation in the Newcastle case, and the Club was handed down a £7,500 fine by the FA.

The coaching staff of a team wholly comprised of players under the age of 18

The Regulations are a little less clear on this point. However, Regulation A.1. applies the Regulations to those in the technical area, including club officials (e.g. managers, coaches, physiotherapists and doctors), and therefore the FA will apply Regulation A.8. to coaching staff also. Therefore, coaching staff of a team wholly comprised of under 18s are not permitted to display a betting (or alcohol) brand on their kit.

An individual player who is under the age of 18

Although the Regulations specifically apply to teams wholly comprised of players under the age of 18, Regulation A.5. incorporates all other recognised advertising standards, and therefore it can safely be argued that the Regulations also apply to individuals under the age of 18. By way of example, if a player under the age of 18 years of age is called into the first team squad, both moving and still images of him may be used widely, thereby having the potential to increase the appeal in the kit he is wearing and the brands he is advertising. It is our view that the safe approach from a GC and CAP perspective is not to allow any player under the age of 18 to display a gambling (or alcohol) brand on his kit.

We would be happy to advise you as to how best to future proof your sponsorship agreements to deal with this issue, and we would welcome any questions you may have in this area.

Contacts

Katie Reed, Senior Associate, Walker Morris
+44 (0)113 283 4044 | +44 (0)793 038 9464
katie.reed@walkermorris.co.uk

Anna Mathias, Barrister and Associate, Woods Whur
+44 (0)113 234 3055 | +44 (0)208 838 4007 | +44 (0)776 778 2997
anna@woodswhur.co.uk