The EHF Champions League website recently published an interview http://www.ehfcl.com/men/2007-08/article/11388/Interwetten:+passionate+support+for+the+CL on their website with the CEO of one of their advertising partners. What’s notable, is that the marketing partner is an internet gambling company, Interwetten www.interwetten.com
Here’s my favorite exchange from the short interview:
“Eurohandball.com: You have seen an exciting game in Kiel, probably also exciting for those betting on it.
Thomas Daubek: It’s a men’s world: a fair, fast, technically very high level game, maybe the best match I have ever seen. I’m happy that I had a chance to watch it.
When the atmosphere gets through on TV to the people watching from their homes, they are ready to place their bets on it. This is an important circle: when the sports are high quality, there are many people betting on it. When many bet on it, there will be a financial basis to reinvest into it from our side, which we are willing to do. “
As an American it’s laughable to even conceptualize the NBA or the NFL having such a sponsor and posting an interview exchange like that on their official website. The major professional leagues are so frightened of gambling that they barely will even acknowledge the huge impact that betting has had on sport popularity. Of course, this fear is legitimate as scandals like the Black Sox in 1918 on college basketball in the 1950’s were devastating to those sports popularity.
The big news last year was that the NBA played the All-Star game in Vegas as a trial balloon to see if Vegas might be ready for an NBA franchise. Of course, the condition for a franchise is reportedly that Vegas will have to agree not to book NBA games. Contrast that to the CEO’s comments.
I’ll have to say, however, that I’ve evolved since I first wrote on this topic: http://teamhandball.blogspot.com/2005/12/ihf-marketing-policy-on-gambling-open.html Maybe, if you see enough games with advertisements in plain view your American puritan blood is thinned.
Maybe it is better to actually fully embrace gambling rather than ignore it entirely. Heck, if they want to help fund the sport, why not? The only caveat I would have, however, is that there need to be some very clear rules and penalties for players, coaches and officials regarding their involvement with gambling. I would think life time banishment would be the minimum penalty. It would be interesting to know whether such rules exist in the IHF, EHF and National Regulations. As the recent Asian Championship match between Kuwait and Iran shows the possibility for match manipulation is very real.
Hopefully, such a betting scandal never occurs, but it wouldn’t hurt to be ready to respond forcefully when it does. Or even better, make clear to everyone right now that the penalties are so severe that they outweigh any potential gains.