Paddy Power cashes out of RTÉ live televised football deal ahead of new betting ads ban

RTÉ has become the first high profile victim of new advertising rules, brought in ahead of gambling regulation, with Paddy Power ending its sponsorship of live televised football. The Flutter Entertainment-owned betting company sponsored the station’s 2021 international men’s soccer coverage, but yesterday confirmed it has “concluded” its partnership with RTÉ. The news comes ahead of new guidelines introduced by the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) covering ‘whistle-to-whistle’ advertising, which will be banned from January 1. ‘Whistle-to-whistle’ covers the duration of live broadcast event, from five minutes before the start of a sporting occasion to five minutes after, and includes breaks of play and half-time adverts, as well as pitch-side LED and other forms of marketing.

While the deal with RTÉ only covered this year’s football fixtures, the firm will not be extending the arrangement into 2022. The company has been examining the use of its ‘Take A Break – Safer Gambling’ advertising, but it’s unclear if such marketing breaches the IBA’s code which comes into force on January 1. The IBA spent the weekend examining the text of its regulations, which also includes a ban on credit card betting, after it was unable to confirm if advertising safer gambling still equates to ‘whistle-to-whistle’ marketing.

Paddy Power paid RTÉ a six-figure fee to sponsor international football this year, which included the rights to host the PP logo on screen during games, beside the clock and live-score graphic. While it recently removed the logo from the screen during play, ads featuring Paddy Power open and close each ad break for the duration of live football coverage. The ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban by betting companies does not include horseracing or greyhound racing, but does impact the highly lucrative football market – a significant area for ‘problem gamblers’. Confirming that Paddy Power has ended its partnership with RTÉ, the company added: “Paddy Power don’t just support the incoming whistle-to-whistle ban as a company, we have already taken a market leading position on this intervention. We took the decision to voluntarily implement a pre-watershed whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising ahead of Euro 2020 which applied to any adverts run on RTÉ in the interim.”

“We also moved to use all existing slots available to us pre and post-match to exclusively promote our ‘Take A Break’ Safer Gambling tool during Ireland’s final four matches in the Men’s Fifa World Cup Qualifiers” RTÉ refused to comment on the matter, saying it did not wish to speak on commercial issues. All independent and leading brand bookies have signed up to the Code for Safer Gambling, except for William Hill. Minister-of-State at the Department of Justice, James Browne – who is driving and leading legislative change in the betting industry through the introduction of gambling regulation in 2023 – has also recently called on William Hill to adopt the new rules.