UK Gambling industry firmly rejects FA's proposal for 'fair return' of funds to support grass-roots game

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Gambling bosses have reacted angrily to Football Association proposals to demand potentially tens of millions of pounds from the betting industry to support the grass-roots game.

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, whose members include Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill, said there "was no basis whatsoever" for payments to "support what most people would consider to be an extremely wealthy sport".

Hawkswood was responding to a Daily Telegraph interview in which Martin Glenn, the FA chief executive, set out his alternative funding plan for the amateur game after the collapse of the £600 million Wembley deal. Glenn suggested a so-called "fair return" funding package had merit because "all those betting companies use our intellectual property".

Nine of the 20 Premier League teams and 17 of 24 Championship teams have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies, but Glenn's plan could see a small percentage taken from bets, rather than commercial deals.

However, the idea was rejected on Friday by Hawkswood, who told Telegraph Sport: "The British betting industry already pays for the use of football’s intellectual property rights, not least through contractual arrangements with Football DataCo [the English football rights body].  Alongside that significant funds flow from the betting to the football industries through a range of commercial partnerships such as sponsorship, advertising and joint ventures.

"If the football authorities wish to use some of those funds to support grassroots football then that is an option they might consider, but there is no basis whatsoever for the introduction of a statutory betting levy to support what most people would consider to be an extremely wealthy sport." Nine of the 20 Premier League teams have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies 

The Senet Group, an independent body which manages the campaign to promote responsible gambling on behalf of the betting industry, also expressed dismay at the plans.

Group chairman Gillian Wilmot said she was "very concerned" as there was already "serious amounts of cash flow from the gambling industry to football".

"We should be very concerned about protecting young people, particularly young men, and vulnerable people," she said. Wilmot believes any payments from football gambling could threaten the current voluntary levy many betting companies raise to help prevent gambling addiction and support existing addicts. "That money needs to go to prevention of any gambling addiction and treatment of those who become addicted, it can't go anywhere else," she said. "That must go to preventing problem gambling and also treating those who become addicted, and that's only right."

The gambling industry has recently admitted concerns with football betting advertising, with Kenny Alexander - chief executive of GVC Holdings that owns Ladbrokes and Coral - having called for a complete ban on betting

The booming football gambling industry is worth £1.4billion to the industry in the UK. The Gambling Commission says bookmakers made £333.4million in profits from bets placed on the sport in Britain between October 2015 and September 2016.

"There are things definitely worthy of consideration," said Glenn. "France has effectively a tax on gambling. We would call it a fair return on football gambling. All those betting companies use our intellectual property to have people lay bets, so why wouldn't a small percentage of that be put into the thing that made that possible in the first place? We, as football, could approach government and say 'Have you thought about something like that?'

"It doesn't need to be a big lump sum. We've got £64 million going into the Football Foundation between the three of us [FA, Premier League and government] - imagine if it was £80 million or £100 million. If we could get to that it would be brilliant."

Some of gambling’s biggest operators have set up online operations based in Gibraltar, including Ladbrokes and William Hill. The UK’s current 15 per cent point-of-consumption tax was implemented in December of 2014 as a way of stopping off-shore companies from avoiding paying tax in the UK. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, is reportedly set to increase the tax paid by offshore gambling companies in Monday's Budget. Glenn supported a number of proposals in this newspaper's Save Our Game campaign. As well as exploring alternative revenue streams from gambling, he said the The Telegraph was "absolutely right" to call for slashing of bureaucracy in the amateur game. He explained the FA was working on a digital database of millions of players to ensure county chiefs could reduce paperwork. In an additional proposal to raise money for artificial pitches, he suggested local authorities could benefit from planning agreements with developers. <