3/11/10 – The imposition of French bans on Internet gambling company logos on the shirts of French football teams playing away games outside France has come under attack.
This week executives of the online gambling firm Betclic and the French football club Olympique Lyonnais were openly critical of UEFA's support for such bans in regard to a match in Madrid, Spain between Olympique Lyonnais and Real Madrid.
In a joint statement with Betclic, the French football club said that the ban on it displaying the BetClic brand on its shirts in the champion's league game against Real Madrid was ‘the height of irony’ when Madrid will be prominently displaying the Bwin brand.
“Olympique Lyonnais is now faced with the fact that we cannot display our sponsors logo this Wednesday in Madrid, in a country which legally allows this type of publicity, and during a match where the main competitor of BetClic will appear on the shirts of Real Madrid!
“This is a new and further penalty which puts French clubs in a position of alarming economic uncertainty, while, at the same time, PMU and FDJ [the French state-owned gambling monopolies] regularly market their products across French media, including with Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) and the French Football Federation (FFF),” said the club statement.
“Olympique Lyonnais questions the exact motivation for these media-related and financial restrictions which impede the French champions in their search for competitiveness," the statement added.
The issue has been complicated by the slower-than-expected liberalisation of the French market, and the consequent impossibility of Betclic achieving licensing status.
UEFA had previously given Olympique Lyonnais permission to display the Betclic logo on away matches outside France, but this permission expired at the end of 2009. The rationale appears to have been that from 2010 the new gambling dispensation would be in place, enabling Betclic to licence and display its logo on sponsored teams. However, such a situation has not evolved, leaving the companies involved in something of a vacuum.
In concert with Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michael Aulas, Betclic chief executive Nicolas Béraud said: “The Champions League is a European competition, so there is no reason to ban any advertising on the shirt of a team that participates in a European competition on the grounds that that the laws of the country where this team plays its national championships does not authorise this."
"It is imperative we move away quickly from this national logic”, the statement stressed. “The French law does not apply in Spain. The Uefa rules on this point have no legal basis."
The statement pointed out that Real Madrid would be displaying the Bwin logo in the big game. “The game is being played in Madrid, where advertising of online gaming is permitted. There is currently no European law that prohibits advertising online gaming. Not to mention that Real Madrid will play with its usual sponsor [Bwin] which is an operator of online sports bets."