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Bookies attempt to solve FA Cup row

BETTING companies have waived exclusive rights to stream FA Cup matches in a bid to resolve the row over a deal which was criticised for encouraging gambling.

The seven bookmakers that hold sole domestic rights to stream FA Cup matches not shown by the BBC or BT Sport have agreed to offer them to a platform which can be viewed for free.

The fact the deal, agreed by the Football Association and sports media rights group IMG in 2017, meant viewers needed to hold an active betting account had prompted political pressure on the FA to find a way out of the deal.

Brigid Simmonds, chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, said bookmakers acted as soon as they realised the only way to watch the relevant matches, all outside the 3pm Saturday blackout, was via their platforms.

‘Once we realised that was the position today we decided it was important that we work with our members to come to a solution,’ she said.

‘The Betting and Gaming Council has been set up to promote social responsibility and to raise standards of safer gambling and this was clearly an area where our members were keen to find a solution.

‘It was entirely a decision for us, but I have been in touch with the FA and they welcomed our decision.’

The deal, which had come under scrutiny on the weekend the FA held its Heads Up mental health awareness campaign, been criticised for creating ‘an active incentive to gamble’ by Conservative MP Damian Collins, who called it ‘worse than grubby’.

Sports minister Nigel Adams had said he was ‘very angry’ about the arrangements and the FA has promised a review of how it sells this element of its media rights in the future.