The advertisement was seen on Facebook in January 2023. It contained text stating: “Who is the most underrated player at the club you support?”, and featured an image of Spanish football players Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets playing for FC Barcelona.
The ad was challenged by the ASA itself. The organisation poised whether BetVictor had breached the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code’s prohibition on gambling ads having strong appeal to under 18s – a rule that came into force in October last year.
In response, BetVictor said that it did not consider Alba and Busquets as well-known footballers in the UK – unlike footballers like Messi, Mbappe and Ronaldo – and therefore they would not fall into the “high risk” category as specified by the CAP.
The operator further stated that neither player had scored against a UK team and had not played against any team in the Premier League since 2019, by the time the ad was in circulation.
BetVictor added that neither player had a social media presence that was popular with under-18s, with both having profiles on Twitter and Instagram as opposed to TikTok, Snapchat or Twitch, which are social media sites that would appeal to a younger audience. The ad also did not contain any “calls to action” on betting sites and no logos apart from BetVictor’s own.
Upheld by the ASA
The ASA upheld the complaint, referencing CAP guidance that football has an inherently strong appeal to under-18s.
It added that despite neither Alba or Busquets having much association with UK clubs or the Premier League, CAP Code prohibits non-UK based elite footballers from appearing in gambling ads.
“The guidance stated that non-UK ‘star’ footballers, particularly those at top European clubs, were considered high-risk in terms of how likely they were to be of strong appeal to under-18s,” read the ASA’s assessment. “We noted that the ad included Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets who were both current players at the European football club FC Barcelona and played for the Spanish national team.”
“FC Barcelona was a professional, top-flight football club that competed in Spain’s top league, and were known to be one of the most widely supported and successful clubs in the world. We considered that they would be classed as a ‘top’ European club under CAP guidance.”
In addition, the ASA said that BetVictor had not done enough to exclude under-18s from viewing the ad, as Facebook does not have “robust age-verification” measures
The ASA concluded that BetVictor had breached CAP Code edition 12, rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12.
Licensing law firm Poppleston Allen said that the ruling represented a landmark for gambling advertising in the UK.
“This latest ruling gives us a clearer picture of which football players the ASA considers to be captured by the new guidelines,” said Felix Faulkner, solicitor at Poppleston Allen. “This is the first time we’ve had a ruling on players who play for teams outside the UK, which widens the scope beyond what the ASA has looked at previously in terms of the CAP guidance that came into effect in October last year.”
“Previous rulings have made clear that current Premier League players are out of bounds but that there is a case to be made for using retired players in some circumstances. This latest ruling takes us a step further and suggests any player in a major overseas league, particularly those playing for the big clubs, is a risky choice for gambling operators.”