By Rohit Mundayur
New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) After several fantasy gaming platforms laid siege on Indian cricket, especially the Indian Premier League (IPL), as sponsors, online betting firms have now invaded Indian football, as seven out of 11 clubs competing in the Indian Super League (ISL) have them as sponsors.
These betting firms are not using their actual names on players’ jerseys. Most of these are advertising in the garb of news entities. But the logos and the fonts used by these news units on jerseys are unmistakably similar to that of their parent companies, i.e. betting firms. Also, links of the parent betting websites are prominently advertised on the websites of these supposed ‘news’ platforms.
DafaNews, PariMatch News, SBOTOP.net, and Indinews are associated with seven of the 11 competing teams — NorthEast United, Kerala Blasters, Chennaiyin FC, Mumbai City FC, ATK Mohun Bagan, FC Goa and Bengaluru FC.
DafaNews has been listed among sponsors of this season for 2018-19 champions
Bengaluru FC, two-time winners Chennaiyin FC, and Mumbai City FC, who are part of a global chain of clubs owned by the City Football Group. The DafaNews website has multiple links to Dafabet, a betting company based out of the Philippines.
Dafabet – and not DafaNews — is also advertising during the live telecast of the India-Australia cricket encounters on SONY channels.
The PariMatch News logo, along with the first part of its name, bears a striking resemblance to that of PariMatch, an international sports betting company based out of Cyprus. NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters list PariMatch News among its list of sponsors. While NorthEast calls PariMatch News a ‘main sponsor’, Kerala Blasters have listed it as an ‘associate sponsor’ and its logo is featured on the right sleeve of the team’s jersey.
SBOTOP.net was announced as a ‘principal team sponsor’ of ATK Mohun Bagan before the start of the ISL season and the website is featured prominently on the club’s jersey. The website itself features predictions and tips related to a wide array of sports. It also lists former West Indies cricket captain Dwayne Bravo as its brand ambassador, an announcement that is also featured on the betting website SBOTOP.
SBOTOP and SBOTOP.net share the same logo, but while SBOTOP.net calls itself a website that “offers the widest scope of coverage and content on cricket and football, as well as other top sporting events”, SBOTOP is a betting website operated by Isle of Man-based Celton Max.
Indinews’s parent company is Indibet, a website that offers cricket based betting odds and displays a Curacao gaming licence. Indibet was also the title sponsor of Saint Lucia Zouks, the Carribean Premier League (CPL) franchise owned by the consortium that owns Indian Premier League team Kings XI Punjab, for the 2020 season of the CPL.
Indinews is featured in front of the jerseys of FC Goa, the 2019-20 ISL Shield winners and runners-up, in the ISL.
Online sports betting is banned in all states and union territories in India, except for Sikkim. But there is little clarity in the laws on the subject of online gambling. And there is negligible fine for offenders. However, surrogate or misleading advertising is banned under the draft guidelines specified by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
When asked about this, Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal said that the club got approval from the league owners and broadcasters, based on the fact that DafaNews is a news portal that is being featured and not the betting website.
“DafaNews has been associated with Bengaluru FC since last season, this is the second year of their association. Since it is a news portal, the league did their checks and balances, it went to IMG-Reliance and STAR Sports team for their approval. Star and IMG-Reliance were very clear that it is the news portal of DafaNews that is sponsoring the teams. We went through the necessary procedure before finalising the deal,” Jindal told IANS.
“Mumbai City’s partnership with DafaNews is fully compliant with all regulations and we are looking forward to working with our new partner in this unique season ahead of us,” read its statement.
FC Goa refused to comment on the topic.
Martin Bain, the CEO of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), organisers of the ISL, did not respond to queries from IANS seeking comment. However, an assistant to Bain wrote back, saying that she was copying “your enquiry to our press office to assist you”. The press office has not responded so far.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das said that the association found no problems with the teams being sponsored by the websites.
“Whenever there is any suspicion, the clubs contact us. We found that there is nothing wrong with these sponsorships,” Das told IANS.
By Rohit Mundayur