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A-Leagues Under Fire for Overseas Gambling Ads

In a controversial move, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) has come under scrutiny for digitally imposing advertisements of the offshore gambling company 8XBet on international broadcasts of A-Leagues matches. This decision has sparked a debate on the ethics of sports advertising and the influence of gambling companies on the sport.

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A-Leagues under fire
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Digital Ads Stir Controversy

8XBet, a gambling firm previously ousted from Australia for breaching local laws, has found a backdoor to maintain its visibility in the sports world through digital ads on A-Leagues games. These ads, invisible to stadium attendees but prominent to international viewers, have been inserted into matches, including those of clubs staunchly opposed to gambling sponsorships.

The digital imposition of 8XBet’s branding in as many as 10 different locations during broadcasts has raised eyebrows, especially since some of these matches involve teams like Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory. Both clubs have publicly denounced gambling sponsorships and have taken significant steps to distance themselves from such associations.

Legal Loopholes & Ethical Questions

The APL’s deal with 8XBet navigates through a legal grey area, exploiting the fact that Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act restricts offshore gambling companies from operating within Australia but does not extend its jurisdiction to Australian organisations promoting these services overseas. This loophole has allowed 8XBet to remain in the global spotlight despite its banishment from the Australian gambling market following a 2022 investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma).

Critics argue that this move by the APL not only undermines the efforts of clubs to promote responsible gambling but also alienates fans who are increasingly concerned about the pervasive nature of gambling ads in sports. The Alliance for Gambling Reform has been vocal in its criticism, accusing the APL of “selling out” to gambling interests at the expense of the sport’s integrity and its fans’ welfare.

Clubs & Advocates Respond

The imposition of 8XBet’s ads during matches has put the involved clubs in a difficult position, with both Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory having previously committed to rejecting gambling money. Their efforts, alongside initiatives like the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation “love the game, not the odds” campaign, aim to sever the ties between sports and gambling advertising, reflecting a broader community sentiment that is increasingly critical of gambling’s role in sports.

Despite the backlash, official responses from the APL and the implicated clubs have been sparse. The APL’s decision to engage with 8XBet raises questions about the balance between commercial interests and ethical considerations in sports management.

Community & Fan Backlash

The reaction from the community and football fans has been overwhelmingly negative, with many feeling that the APL’s actions are not in line with the values and expectations of the sporting community. Research conducted by La Trobe University for the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation found a minimal level of support for gambling sponsorships among sports fans, highlighting the disconnect between sporting bodies’ decisions and community values.

As the debate continues, the APL’s commercial deal with 8XBet stands as a contentious issue, challenging the boundaries of advertising in sports and the responsibility of leagues to uphold ethical standards that resonate with their base of supporters and the wider community.