Football pundits from the BBC and ITV are using social media to promote gambling to millions of young fans during the World Cup.
Former England internationals, including Alan Shearer and Jermaine Jenas, have been given lucrative contracts to act as ambassadors for various betting companies.
Taking advantage of their exposure to millions of viewers, they share tips and push promotions to their legions of Twitter followers during the tournament in Russia.
The afternoon before the opening ceremony, BBC pundit Shearer had already retweeted two tweets by bookmakers Coral to his nearly 650,000 followers.
Football pundits like Jermaine Jenas from the BBC and ITV are using social media to promote gambling to millions of young fans during the World Cup
After signing a year-long deal as an ambassador for the gambling firm, the company's PR director described Shearer as 'quite simply the biggest football signing in Coral's history'.
Meanwhile, fellow BBC pundit Jenas also joined in 24 hours before the tournament began, tweeting a video on behalf of UniBet.
BBC guidelines state that 'care must be taken' when promoting alcohol, high interest financial products, or gambling.
As part of an investigation into the extent to which the gambling industry has penetrated the World Cup, the Mail can also reveal:
- Young football fans are being barraged by gambling adverts on TV as they get home from school, with a fifth of those shown during ITV's coverage devoted to betting firms;
- Every one of the seven advert breaks between 2.30pm and 6pm – peak watching times for children – during the tournament's opening game featured at least one gambling advert, with nine shown in total;
- Campaigners warn that betting advertising during sporting events has reached a 'tipping point' and the UK is at risk of 'normalising gambling for children';
- MPs and the Local Government Association called for 'tighter restrictions' on gambling advertising – particularly where children were being tempted by free bets.
The number of TV gambling adverts has surged since 2007, when Tony Blair's Labour government eased restrictions on high street and online betting firms.
Gambling firms are able to use a loophole that lets them advertise before the 9pm watershed if it is during a live televised sporting event.
Studies show youngsters are extremely susceptible to advertising, and more vulnerable to gambling addiction than adults.
With about 25,000 problem gamblers aged between 11 and 16, the Gambling Commission warned last year that Britain was 'sleepwalking into a future public health storm'.
The afternoon before the opening ceremony, BBC pundit Shearer had already retweeted two tweets by bookmakers Coral to his nearly 650,000 followers
Nike pulls Iran boots
Sportswear giant Nike says it has withdrawn its supply of boots to Iranian footballers ahead of the World Cup because of new US sanctions.
The decision upset players, who have been forced to buy their own pairs or borrow them. Iran manager Carlos Queiroz has asked FIFA for 'help'.
On the eve of Iran's match against Morocco yesterday, several first-team players had to buy Nike boots from sports shops in Saint Petersburg.
The company's move did not affect the team's performance, however, as a late goal secured a 1-0 victory.
'Lucky' Nigerian chickens banned from stadiums
Nigeria fans will not be allowed to take their 'lucky' live chickens into the stadium when their side play their opening game against Croatia today.
Supporters of the 'Super Eagles' say the tradition brings their team good luck – but it has nevertheless been banned by Russian officials.
Andrei Ermak, the minister of culture in Kaliningrad, where Nigeria play tonight, said officials would advise fans where they would be able to carry their chickens instead.
Labour MP Jo Stevens, a member of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, said: 'All eyes are on the World Cup right now – and so far you can't seem to escape the gambling advertising. It's saturating every aspect of the game.
'We know there is a proven link between gambling advertising and rising problem gambling and addiction.
'That's why the Government must look at tighter restrictions on gambling adverts, particularly where children are being exposed to the lure of free bets online.'
Despite previous warnings, several pundits took to social media to tweet links to various betting sites.
The estate that's joined the All England Club
After all the disappointments, you might forgive fans for giving up on the England team.
But this group of residents have shown their colours with pride, festooning their entire estate with more than 300 England flags as they prepare to cheer on their countrymen in the World Cup.
Balconies on the Kirby Estate in Bermondsey, south-east London, have been turned into a sea of St George's crosses – with a Colombian flag as the sole exception.
This group of residents have shown their colours with pride, festooning their entire estate with more than 300 England flags
The makeover was carried out over three evenings by football-mad Alan Putman, 48, Chris Dowse, 39 and Geraldine Howard, 52.
The trio pay for the flags out of their own pockets, but wrote to all 120 neighbours to confirm they agreed to them being displayed.
The trio have never suffered a complaint or experienced any vandalism in the years since they started putting up the flags for the 2014 World Cup.
The estate is also turned red and white on St George's Day and for football's European Championships.
The makeover was carried out over three evenings by football-mad Alan Putman, 48, Chris Dowse, 39 and Geraldine Howard, 52
Mr Dowse said: 'It gives you a warm feeling when you return home after work. It brings people out and it brings the kids together. It gets everyone talking.'
Miss Howard said the 'wonderful tradition' had got bigger every year, adding: 'This is the first year we've done the entire estate.'
The flags will stay up until England are knocked out of the World Cup. The team play their first game on Monday, against Tunisia.
BBC pundit Robbie Savage, 43, helped to promote bookmakers William Hill to his 1.8 million Twitter followers.
In the three days before the start of the World Cup, he retweeted daily promotional adverts that attempted to draw gamblers to the company's website.
FIFA bosses make £1bn
FIFA fat cats are making nearly £1 billion more from this World Cup than they did from the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
According to FIFA financial documents reviewed by The New York Times, the 2018 Cup is set to generate £4.59billion in revenue – 10 per cent more than FIFA had estimated.
The figure is £980million higher than the 2014 figure.
The newspaper said a string of sponsorship deals with Chinese firms were behind the increase.
A spokesman for the BBC said: 'Our freelance broadcasters adhere to our guidelines while working in a BBC capacity. Their social media accounts are not BBC accounts and they do not promote their other commitments on air.'
Over on ITV, pundits were also making the most of their exposure during the World Cup to promote betting companies.
Former England and Arsenal player Lee Dixon signed a deal with Ladbrokes to become their 'leading World Cup ambassador' this month.
The day before the opening ceremony, he retweeted two videos in quick succession from the Ladbrokes account to his nearly 500,000 followers.
A spokesman for ITV said promotional work by pundits was separate to their work for the broadcaster.
ITV also came under fire yesterday for the number of gambling adverts it is showing during the tournament.
BBC pundit Robbie Savage, 43, helped to promote bookmakers William Hill to his 1.8 million Twitter followers
Despite the opening match not starting until 4pm, adverts for betting companies were broadcast more than an hour beforehand.
Over three and a half hours of broadcasting before and during the opening match on Thursday, ITV broadcast 45 adverts for alcohol, car, and shampoo companies.
But by far the highest number of adverts – nine – were devoted to gambling.
Campaigners have expressed their concern that a vast majority of those watching the ads will be children.
Trent Alexander-Arnold's doting parents
It's something a lot of teenage boys will no doubt sympathise with.
England defender Trent Alexander-Arnold admits his mum, Diane, has been making daily phone calls to make sure he is wearing enough sun cream.
The Liverpool right-back, who at 19 is the youngest member of our squad in Russia, said she had been seeking regular assurances that he was all right.
Alexander-Arnold told BBC Radio 5 Live: 'She's so into the details. The whole family's like that, we keep well in touch. I call them a couple of times a day.'
'It's them you want to make proud. To see them with a smile on their face and to be proud of me is probably the biggest incentive I've got in football.'
With 12 group games scheduled to take place between 3pm and 7pm on weekdays, the reach betting firms have into family viewing times is substantial.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the Central and North-West London NHS Trust's National Problem Gambling Clinic, said: 'No child should be subjected to gambling advertising while watching a game of football.
'It is our duty to ensure that financial gain does not prevail over the need to protect our young.'
Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, said: 'Many children and their families will tune in to enjoy the World Cup this summer, but will also be exposed to numerous gambling adverts.
'Gambling advertising during sport has reached a tipping point and we run the risk of normalising gambling for children.'
ITV said: 'The ads shown during our World Cup coverage are compliant with both the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising's rules on the content and scheduling of gambling advertising, and the gambling industry's own set of regulations (the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling Code) to protect viewers, particularly children.
'ITV takes it responsibilities to viewers very seriously and our compliance with all advertising codes relating to gambling is comprehensively accurate.'
The Advertising Standards Authority said it did not have any control over the amount of gambling advertisements shown during a live televised event.
Instead, the regulatory body is only able to monitor the content of the advertisements.
Barrage of gambling ads aimed at the young is positively wrong
By Daily Mail editorial writers
The Mail revealed how the World Cup is being exploited by online bookmakers to bombard football-mad teenagers with TV advertisements, designed to lure them into the dubious world of internet gambling.
On ITV, one in every five ads during match coverage will be for betting firms, many at prime viewing times for schoolchildren.
But what really sticks in the craw is that the seductive message that gambling is just harmless fun is being reinforced on Twitter by some of the BBC's most trusted soccer pundits.
As 'ambassadors' for online bookies, ex-internationals including Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage are cashing in on their carefully polished TV image to make gambling seem normal.
What they don't say in their chatty tweets is that it can destroy lives. And the young – for whom these men are significant role models – are particularly vulnerable.
A recent survey showed that 25,000 children aged between 11 and 16 are 'problem gamblers', with 36,000 more 'at risk'.
Campaigners say the numbers are growing and that TV and social media advertising is a major factor.
The main culprit of course is Tony Blair, with his disastrous Gambling Act of 2005, which allowed bookmakers to advertise before the watershed during live matches.
The Mail doesn't want to be sanctimonious about a pastime which can give innocent pleasure to millions. Gambling is not harmful per se, and indeed this newspaper carries bookmakers' adverts.
But this relentless barrage of advertisements aimed at the young has got to be troubling, especially if it's given a veneer of respectability by pundits employed by our national broadcaster – paid for by us. This is positively wrong.