West Ham’s main sponsors Betway have been fined more than £400,000 for advertising on pages of the club’s website targeted at children.
Enquiries by the Gambling Commission uncovered that Betway’s logo, which linked to the bookies’ website, appeared on a section offering a chance to print a picture of a teddy bear for children to colour in.
The logo was displayed between April 14, 2020, and November 6, 2021. It was also found on the Young Hammers at Home page between October 24, 2021, and November 15, 2021.
Both adverts breached Gambling Commission rules requiring that all advertising must be socially responsible.
The Commission’s regulations also state that responsibility for where logos appear lies with betting companies, such as Betway, resulting in them receiving the £408,915 fine rather than West Ham.
A West Ham spokesperson said: ‘The Betway logo appeared on a web page on the West Ham United website containing content that was targeted at Under 18s. Upon identification, it was immediately removed.
‘The club’s new website, launched in March 2022, has robust systems in place to ensure a technical issue like this will not occur again.’
Betway’s sanction will provide further ammunition for those calling for a total ban on betting-related sponsorship in football.
However, eight Premier League clubs have betting companies as sponsors on the their shirts, training kit or areas of their grounds.
James Grimes, who fronts the Big Step campaign striving to rid football of gambling advertising, said: ‘This shows again that the Government must end all gambling sponsorship in football. By continuing to promote gambling, clubs are risking the health and lives of young fans.’
‘As a responsible licensed operator, Betway has zero tolerance with marketing to under-18s,’ Betway said in a statement.
‘As one of the first betting operators to remove our branding from under-18s kit and supporter merchandise, we feel very strongly about our responsibility in this area.
‘On this occasion, the Betway logo – owing to a technical error – appeared on a restricted section of the West Ham United website. As soon as we were made aware of this error, we took immediate action to get it removed.
‘Nonetheless, we accept the fine and will continue to work closely with the Club to ensure this does not happen again.’
Betway and West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan originally struck up their sponsorship deal in 2015.
The betting company has been the club’s main shirt sponsor for the past seven years. West Ham had already removed the sponsor from the shirt of Bubbles the mascot in the London Stadium on matchdays.
Findings into Betway arrive two years after the same commission fined the gambling sponsor a UK record £11.6million for ‘systemic historical failings’ in tackling money laundering and problem gambling.
They failed to carry out effective social responsibility checks with a customer who deposited and lost £187,000 over two days.
Leanne Oxley, the commission’s enforcement director, said: ‘Protecting children from gambling is at the heart of what we do.
‘Although there is no suggestion that the operator was deliberately targeting children, or that children had been allowed to gamble, we take the breach of any rules aimed at protecting children extremely seriously.’
She advised other gambling companies to ‘learn from this case’ and ensure they have ‘the correct processes in place’ to avoid similar mistakes.