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UK betting companies offer to walk away from exclusive FA Cup rights

The seven betting firms with rights to stream live FA Cup games have offered the Football Association (FA) the option to walk away from their exclusive deals, after the FA engaged its sales partner IMG in a bid to withdraw from those agreements.

The FA has been heavily criticised for its close ties with gambling brands such as Bet365, which has rights to stream matches that were not made available for regular broadcast from the domestic cup competition on its website and app.

Amid pressure from the UK government, the FA said it would review its media rights sales process ahead of the next tender in 2024. According to the Guardian, the organisation then picked up its efforts to appease its detractors by entering talks with IMG, which brokered the partnerships, over the possibility of withdrawing from or renegotiating the deals.

Now, the seven betting firms – Bet365, Betfair, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes, Unibet and Paddy Power – have offered to cancel the exclusivity that meant fans seeking to watch their team had to engage with a gambling platform to do so.

In a statement on behalf of the companies, Brigid Simmonds, the Chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “Our members did not seek exclusivity for the rights to screen FA cup games. They are therefore happy for IMG to offer the rights to screen these games to the Football Association or another appropriate body so that the games can be viewed for free by the public with immediate effect.”

The agreements made by IMG on behalf of the FA had been signed in early 2017, before the soccer body confirmed in July it would sever ties with the gambling industry and not pen any new deals.

Betting brands’ exclusivity on select FA Cup games was set to end after the 2021/22 season when they can be simulcast on the FA’s website, but that now looks set to come about sooner.

As part of a wider discussion regarding betting in the UK, support was given by MPs for reform of the Gambling Act passed in 2005, which liberalised regulation in the industry, prompting a deluge of betting deals across the English game.

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