Online gambling site BetHard was forced to postpone its UK launch today (Wednesday) after it discovered its brand ambassador, soccer legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic, faced possible sanctions from English soccer’s governing body for promoting the company.
The Manchester United star, often referred to simply as “Zlatan,” signed a sponsorship deal with Sweden’s BetHard earlier this month for a figure rumored to be between £7 million and £8.7 million. But apparently representatives of neither party thought to ask the Football Association (FA) first.
If they had checked the FA rulebook, they would have discovered that “an individual participant, when acting in a personal capacity, shall not be permitted to advertise or promote any betting activity that the participant is prohibited from engaging in.”
Players, as well as match officials and club employees, are forbidden from betting on matches, transfers, managerial appointments, team selection or disciplinary matters.
Media Invitations Backfire
Prior to its postponed expansion to the UK, Malta-licensed BetHard focused mainly on the Nordic markets, but last summer it received its UK license. On Tuesday, it sent British journalists invitations to its launch party, in Manchester next Monday, while announcing the exciting news that Sweden’s greatest ever soccer player would be present.
But instead of firing back grateful RSVPs, it appears said journalists spotted the rule violation and gleefully phoned the FA to find out how much trouble Zlatan was in.
The Daily Mirror, which was apparently first out of the blocks on the story, reported the FA was “ready to look into Ibrahimovic’s potential involvement, to see if the 36-year-old striker has breached their strict rules and regulations with regard to betting.”
Once alerted to the FA rules, it appears Zlatan was out. Within hours of the publication of the article, BetHard announced the postponement of the launch.
“We will be in touch with a new date soon, and please bear with us until then as we are unable to offer further information at this time,” it said.
Ibrahimovic has featured only seven times for Manchester United this season, having been side-lined with a recurring knee injury.
At 36, the player, considered by some to be the best striker of his generation, has long outlasted most soccer players. But having announced he will leave United at the end of this season, there are doubts that he will ever represent the team again.
He won’t be representing BetHard either, at least until he has fully retired from English football.