Football pundit Robbie Savage came under fire last night for promoting gambling companies just hours before he covered the Champions League for the BBC.
The former Leicester city star was criticised for using ‘dangerous’ promotion tactics which play on the vulnerabilities of gambling addicts who fear missing out on a potential win.
Savage provided live commentary for the Liverpool v Roma game on BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday night.
Robbie Savage was working as a commentator for BBC Radio 5 Live for the Liverpool-Roma match
And before the game the 41-year-old was promoting betting firm William Hill to his 1.8million followers, many of whom are children.
But despite encouraging people to gamble ahead of working for the Corporation, the BBC have stood by Savage claiming he has not broken their guidelines.
In the run up to Tuesday’s game Savage Tweeted: ‘Can’t wait for tonight @bbc5live comm for Liverpool v Roma join me and @Robbie9Fowler from 6-30pm also you can watch game on @btsport with our brilliant team.’
And one hour later he plugged William Hill alongside his own competition for his followers to guess the results of the match.
The star, who has been an ambassador for the multi-million pound gambling company for eight years, wrote: ‘Right thoughts predictions tonight @WilliamHill score and Scorers ! I’ll pick one of you who gets it spot on and giveaway s signed programme of tonight’s game from some Liverpool legends???????? (sic)’
Betting firm William Hill then responded to some of the 192 comments with predictions for the game, making fans aware of their odds and pushing links for them to put money on their claims.
Then before the game he retweeted his William Hill interview which previewed the game. The Tweet read ‘#LFC are set to welcome #ASRoma for the first leg of the #UCL semi-final. PFA POTY Mohamed Salah, who spent two seasons at Roma, has scored 8 CL goals so far – and in 7 straight games in all competitions’. It also contained a link which directed fans to the betting website.
The BBC’s editorial guidelines say pundits should not promote services linked to a sport they cover.
The pundit tweeted William Hill alongside his own competition for his followers to guess the results of the match
The broadcaster claims that ‘even when there is no obvious conflict of interest with the presenter’s on-air role, there are some products or services which the BBC would not wish its presenters to promote as the association might be damaging to the BBC’s reputation.
‘Care must be taken with other products such as alcohol, high interest financial products or gambling.’
It also outlines that ‘presenters, reporters, commentators and regular ‘pundits’ who work on BBC sports coverage and sports programmes should not advertise products or services connected with the sport or sports which they cover nor should they undertake adverts for the sponsors of the sports which they cover.’
Justyn Larcombe, recovering gambler and consultant for gambling charities, said Savage – who has a huge social media following – was encouraging ‘destructive’ behaviour by promoting betting firms.
He said: ‘From someone who’s well respected and likely has a large number of young people following him, encouraging people to gamble can have a negative impact on a lot of people.
‘For a problem gambler the concern is on missing out on a potential win which is why advertising in and around matches can be destructive for problem gamblers. In the lead up to, during or just after it’s very dangerous for problem gamblers. It’s the instant nature of it, the not wanting to miss out bit.’
The former Leicester City star has been criticised by gambling charities for his tweets
One in ten youngsters aged 11 to 16 follows a bookmaker on social media and there are 25,000 problem gamblers in that age group.
And Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware said promoting betting firms is helping ‘normalise gambling for children’ and urged starsto act responsibly by warning his fans about the dangers of placing bets.
‘The constant promotion of gambling around professional sports is particularly concerning because it undoubtedly helps to normalise gambling for children’, he said.
‘From broadcasters to advertisers to professional sports people, it’s so important that we all recognise the responsibility we share to ensure everyone understands the risks associated with gambling, particularly parents and their children.’
Savage has been criticised in the past for endorsing William Hill on the same day he acts as a pundit.
On his Twitter page, the he has promoting gambling on darts, football and horse racing.
And it is not just Savage who is endorsing betting companies. Former England captain Shearer, who has 587,000 followers, is an ‘ambassador’ for Coral and retweets the bookmaker’s posts in which he has been interviewed by the firm’s publicist. His fellow Match of the Day pundit, ex-Tottenham Hotspur star Jermaine Jenas, is an ambassador for Unibet, and retweets similar posts.
A representative for Savage did not respond to a request for comment.