England’s test cricket coach, Brendon McCullum, has come under fire after appearing in a series of adverts for Indian betting firm 22Bet.
The New Zealander, who has been credited with revolutionising test cricket with his ‘Bazball’ approach, has appeared in a number of promotional videos on social media for the firm, and even posted a message to his own Facebook page promoting 22Bet’s IPL offers.
The English and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed that they will be speaking to McCullum about the ads, although there’s no suggestion that his job is under threat.
“We are exploring the matter and are in discussions with Brendon around his relationship with 22Bet,” a spokesperson for the ECB revealed.
“We have rules in place around gambling and will always seek to ensure these are followed.”
Players are specifically banned from promoting gambling companies as part of the ECB’s code of conduct, with punishments including a one-year ban from international duty. Professional cricketers are prohibited from ‘directly or indirectly soliciting, inducing, enticing, instructing, persuading, encouraging, facilitating or authorising any other party to enter into a bet in relation to the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any match or competition.’
Based in Cyprus and operating via a Curacao gambling licence, 22Bet are not registered in New Zealand nor are they licensed to operate there – causing confusion given McCullum’s legendary status in the country.
The Department of Internal Affairs has since demanded a geo-block be implemented to protect New Zealanders from seeing the ads on YouTube, Facebook and the like.
Are Sportspeople Allowed to Appear in Gambling Ads?
For many years each sport was allowed to govern themselves when it comes to athletes appearing in gambling ads, but that all changed with a blanket ban in 2022.
A governmental agency, the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP), made it illegal for sports stars, celebrities and those ‘well-known to under-18s’ to promote gambling firms on television or via social media.
Any breach of the rule would likely see the company in question lose their UK licence.
A Ladbrokes ad featuring Jesse Lingard and Philippe Coutinho was pulled as a result, although SkyBet and Paddy Power have continued to use ex-pros such as Micah Richards and Peter Crouch in their marketing campaigns.
There appears to be a grey area when it comes to retired sportspeople and whether they still fall under the remit of appealing to minors, while McCullum’s promotional appearances were designed to be seen outside of the UK – although the firm does have a UK operating licence as part of a partnership with European firm Tonybet.
But in his position as England coach, McCullum is governed by the rules of both the ECB and CAP – which will likely bring an end to his association with 22Bet.
Overseas firms continue to use sporting stars past and present, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic the face of Bethard – he was later fined for having a ‘financial interest’ in the firm, which is prohibited by UEFA.
The rules aren’t universal across the sporting spectrum either, with snooker ace Judd Trump and NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo currently employed as ‘brand ambassadors’ for gambling firms on both sides of the Atlantic.