Column: FIFA presidency no laughing matter as would-be candidate becomes frontman for gambling

That was before online bookmakers offered odds on anything and everything, from match results and goals scored to which team will win the coin toss or take the first corner, and before their relentless advertising.

Asking your kids to make tea during half-time breaks won’t shield them from the bombardment, not with gambling ads flashing throughout matches on pitch-side light-boards. Bet some more.

But the targets were our wallets and spending habits, not our hearts. “It’s great for Paddy Power. So silky as a player for Newcastle and Tottenham; so ridiculous now with his car-crash campaign for the FIFA presidency.

Bet. The increase was three-fold for children aged 4-15.

We’re talking here about David Ginola. In pocketing 250,000 pounds (335,000 euros; US$375,000) from bookmaker Paddy Power for this stunt, Ginola became the latest Trojan horse in the gambling and gaming industry’s creeping and creepy embrace of football.

All this in a sport grappling with the increasing danger of gambling-related match-fixing and with ample examples of gambling-addicted players who frittered away their wealth.

And how about this blurb from Sky Bet, title sponsor since 2013 of England’s three divisions below the Premier League. In the UK, which liberalized gambling advertising in 2007, adults’ exposure to gambling commercials on television soared five-fold in eight years to 2012, regulator Ofcom found. FIFA’s election and ethics rules will almost certainly keep him off the May ballot. Tuning in for results of football betting pools, which offered big jackpots for small stakes, was a Saturday afternoon ritual for many 20th Century English families.

“I’m here today to talk about love” were the Frenchman’s seductive opening words at his campaign launch in London this month.

Sport “matters more when there’s money on it,” it says.

One of those is Kevin Twaddle, a former player for Motherwell and other Scottish clubs who told his story in the biography, “Life On The Line: How to Lose a Million and So Much More.” He no longer gambles and has delivered talks to other players about the risks.

Ginola has zero chance of unseating Sepp Blatter. It reads like a plug for Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Sports and gambling have, of course, long gone together, feeding off each other’s success and growth. This was about making a splash. Hull against Aston Villa on Feb. That much was clear from the Paddy Power branding.

“It just makes like a mockery of football.”

“It’s eyeballs we’re after,” 12Bet executive Rory Anderson, quoted in the Daily Mail, said when the online bookmaker became the name on Hull City’s shirt for this Premier League season.

Whoa. What ever happened to sport for sport’s sake, for the buzz of competition, not a bet? How quaint. Bet again. 10 will pit two Asian online bookmakers against each other. But I mean you’re talking about one of the biggest, powerfulest jobs in football and all you’re getting to hear about is Paddy Power.”

But gambling advertising wasn’t as in-your-face as now. After Thursday’s passing of the entry deadline, “Team Ginola” should fade away.

Imagine, for a moment, a Paddy Power-financed FIFA president. It won’t happen; FIFA’s ethics rules should see to that. Villa’s shirt sponsor is dafabet, a name that works better in Chinese, where “dafa” means “big wealth.” Stoke and Burnley players are billboards for Bet365 and Fun88 (another name that plays on the Chinese word to get rich).

Twaddle takes a very dim view of Ginola’s Paddy Power-backed grab for FIFA.

John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. But the mere thought of the gambling industry even attempting to place a stooge at the very top of football makes the prospect of another Blatter term seem perhaps not quite so bad.

PARIS –  Don’t laugh. Write to him at jleicester@ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester

But that’s not the point here. “There’s more passion, more pleasure and more pain.”

And that isn’t funny at all.

That is the message that football, more than most other sports, is mainlining into our homes, helped by names like Ginola and teams lending their cachet, stadiums, jerseys and players to the industry that had cash to splash when the 2008 financial crisis hobbled other sponsors.. There’s nothing funny about the gambling industry’s latest wheeze to sink its teeth even deeper into football and its fans.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” he said in a phone interview

Amelia Woodward

Amelia Woodward

Hopefully you will now be less likely to fall for a system that doesn't work. There are systems that can and will bring you rewards but it is imperative that you know what you are buying first.
Amelia Woodward

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