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Betting companies agree to allow FA Cup games to be streamed on free platform

Betting companies who held streaming rights for FA Cup ties have agreed to allow the games to be streamed on a free platform such as the Football Association’s own website.

The FA was heavily criticised over the deal it had struck with sports media rights company IMG which allowed seven bookmakers to stream FA Cup matches to customers who held active accounts.

Last weekend’s FA Cup ties were used to promote the governing body’s ‘Heads Up’ mental health awareness campaign, something which jarred with the streaming agreement given the link between gambling addiction and health harms.

The deal was described as “worse than grubby” by Conservative MP Damian Collins on Wednesday, but the decision to allow the matches to be streamed free elsewhere removes the need to hold an active gambling account to watch the games.

A statement from Brigid Simmonds, the chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, read: “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 statement from the BGC was supported by bet365, GVC, Flutter, William Hill and Kindred, the groups who held the streaming rights.

Sports minister Nigel Adams tweeted in reaction to the news, saying: “I welcome this statement by @BetGameCouncil following my remarks in the Commons this morning. It’s now over to @FA & IMG to ensure that fans can view these FA Cup games without needing to register for or to place a bet.”

The FA was not immediately available for a response to the BGC statement.

Collins had criticised the deal, which was struck with IMG in January 2017.

In June of that year, the FA took a position to end a deal it had agreed directly with Ladbrokes, but it was understood the arrangement with IMG left them with little room for manoeuvre in terms of withdrawal.

Collins criticised the deal on Wednesday, saying it created “an active incentive for people to gamble” by linking free coverage of FA Cup games to opening an online betting account.