Match-fixing investigations and sports-betting sponsorship bans are taking their toll on marketing plans across the Latin American region, say local sports executives.
“This is the subject of the moment in Brazil,” said Eduardo Quintes, marketing manager of leading Rio de Janeiro football club Flamengo, when asked on Wednesday (September 20) at the SBC Summit Barcelona how the Brazilian Congress’ high-profile investigation into match-fixing allegations and last year’s federal investigation were affecting sports-betting sponsorship deals.
Bans or proposed restrictions on sponsorship agreements between online gambling operators and sports teams have swept the Latin American region in recent months, in part as a means of advancing efforts to regulate sports betting.
Last year, Brazilian consumer-protection agency Senacon demanded documents related to all partnerships between sports clubs, broadcasters and betting operators.
Earlier this month, Chile’s Ministry of Justice gave the country's National Association of Professional Football (ANFP) 30 days to terminate any contracts with online betting operators.
In Ecuador, President Guillermo Lasso signed a regulatory decree in August to ban all sports-betting advertising.
All three countries are in the midst of regulating online gambling, but have yet to complete the process.
Roberto Navarrette, marketing coordinator for Ecuador’s Liga Pro, called the situation “a bit up in the air”, but assured SBC Summit delegates that “as of now, we’re taking the risk, we’re activating aggressively with our title sponsor”.
He warned, however, that things could change with the upcoming presidential election runoff, which will take place on October 15.
A recent spate of betting-integrity and match-fixing investigations have also made life difficult for those promoting sponsorships between online operators and football clubs and leagues.
Brazilian football has been embroiled in scandal since February, when prosecutors in the state of Goias unveiled a series of damaging spot-fixing allegations levied at numerous professional players.
The lower house of Brazil's Congress formed a formal parliamentary investigation commission (CPI) to probe the issue and formulate a legislative response.
The Brazilian investigation has kicked off similar probes in Chile and Bolivia, which recently saw two football competitions suspended when audio of a referee bluntly agreeing to throw a game was leaked.
When asked if the incidents would affect sponsorship and commercial growth when it comes to sports betting, Argentina's Racing Club de Avellaneda marketing director Roby Martinez said that the Bolivian investigation is far from finished but that it most certainly “will damage it”.
Rafael Ganem, commercial director of Brazil’s Botafogo football club, said that, like any good relationship, communication was the key.
“The government needs to talk with the companies, with the clubs, and with the players, because the players are the important topic in this matter,” he said.
He also revealed that in the wake of the match-fixing CPI and the Bolivian scandal, Botafogo convened a meeting of its players with lawyers to address both the dangers of match-fixing and “the danger of doing things on the side”.
“It’s an education process; we have to educate our players, our citizens. It's a new thing for us, and we have to have patience,” concluded Ganem.
Executives at betting operators were less forthcoming as to the impact of recent regulatory events, with panel moderator Hristo Spasov, director of sports betting at Codere, evading questions about match-fixing and sponsorship bans.
Brazil Match-Fixing Probes Nears Conclusion
The discussion at the SBC Summit came a few hours before Brazil's CPI on match-fixing held one of its final meetings to discuss its draft report and recommendations to address betting integrity-related risks to football and other Brazilian sports.
A draft 244-page report authored by Deputy Felipe Carreras recommends that Brazil join the so-called Macolin Convention on sports integrity and proposes four specific pieces of legislation to address match-fixing.
One of the draft bills included in the report would ban Brazilian betting operators under a forthcoming national licensing regime from offering any bets on “individual actions” in sporting events, instead limiting wagers to the final score and total number of goals scored by teams.
Criminal laws should also be updated to penalise coaches, team directors and others if they fail to share any knowledge of planned fixing schemes with the appropriate authorities.
The CPI did not vote on the draft report on Wednesday, but is expected to do so in the near future pending further review by members of the panel.
The match-fixing probe is limited to the lower house of Brazil's Congress, although the same issue was also discussed on Wednesday during a hearing convened by the Brazilian Senate's Committee on Sport.
The Senate committee, chaired by former Brazilian football star Romario, received testimony from representatives of Brazilian betting industry associations, the federal government's ministries of finance and sport, and from the Brazilian football confederation (CBF).
Additional reporting by James Kilsby.