- Melbourne’s premiership full-forward and renowned goalkicker Ben Brown is among the leading players who have chosen not to have their image used in the AFL-authorised betting promotions for ethical reasons.
- In 2022, close to 30 players chose to “opt out” of the wagering promotion for the betting partner.
- The players will not have their image used by the AFL’s lucrative betting partner, Sportsbet, which is entitled to use their image – in small groups shots and also in footage – to promote or advertise their company’s betting on the AFL.
A number of high-profile AFL players have refused to have their image used by the AFL’s wagering partner, for ethical, reputational or even commercial reasons.
Melbourne’s premiership full-forward and renowned goalkicker Ben Brown is among the leading players who have chosen not to have their image used in the AFL-authorised betting promotions for ethical reasons.
Melbourne forward Ben Brown.Credit:Getty Images
By opting “out”, the players will not have their image used by the AFL’s lucrative betting partner, Sportsbet, which is entitled to use their image – in small groups shots and also in footage – to promote or advertise the company’s betting on the AFL.
In addition to Brown, who is renowned for his stands on social issues, The Age is aware of another well-known player, who wished to remain anonymous, who opted out for ethical reasons, feeling uncomfortable with the betting promotion.
There are other players, according to agents, who have opted out of the wagering promotion because they have had gambling problems in the past.
A number of senior players contacted by The Age, however, had little awareness that the AFL effectively asks them to “opt out” – and that Sportsbet had the right to use their image if they did not specify opposition to being used in the betting promotion/advertisements.
Nearly all these players contacted had not objected and thus Sportsbet had the right to use their image, even though some expressed misgivings about the wagering connection.
In 2022, close to 30 players chose to “opt out” of the wagering promotion for the betting partner — fewer than 4 per cent of players. Under AFL rules, players cannot be involved in encouraging betting on AFL games, but their image can be exclusively used by the AFL’s wagering partner, which also has a presence on the league’s website and App.
Sources familiar with Brown’s situation said he had first opted out of the wagering promotion in an earlier season, perhaps in 2020.
Former Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood, who voiced opposition to the gambling relationship with the AFL until his retirement after the 2021 season, said he would have opted out and not let his image be used under the current system, which was part of the players’ pay deal with the AFL.
Wood could not recall if he had actually opted out in his final years – the opt-out arrangement is relatively recent. “But given the opportunity [now], I unequivocally would opt out,” he told The Age. In 2019, Wood said he would be willing to accept a reduced salary if the league reduced its reliance on gambling dollars.
Wagering and AFL industry sources estimated that the Sportsbet (formerly BetEasy) deal was worth $12 million to $13 million a year — potentially enough to cover one of the 18 clubs’ salary cap for players.
Attitudes to wagering on footy — and concern about the proliferation of wagering advertising on football broadcasts — has become an increasingly fraught issue, with more scrutiny of the betting firm’s increased presence in the country’s biggest sports and media.
The 800-plus AFL players receive 28 per cent of the Sportsbet deal, just as they receive 28 per cent of all football-related revenue that is earned by the clubs and the AFL.
In an email to AFL-accredited player agents last month, the AFL Players’ Association outlined the choice for players on participating in the Sportsbet promotions.
The letter said that players could have their image used in these ways: “four or more players in the one match-day image equally represented”; or in vision “when the player is featured” in short clips.
The letter said players could opt out if they had “genuine personal, moral or ethical objection to the use of their image” or if they felt it was “detrimental to the player’s reputation or inconsistent with a demonstrable brand strategy implemented on behalf of the player”.
If players did not specify they had opted out, it would be “deemed that they do not have an objection to the use of their image by Sportsbet/BetEasy”.
The AFL was contacted for comment.
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