Ian Herbert: Sky Sports reports, Sky Bet reacts – is there a conflict of interest?

Sky Bet is the only bookie with a sister company that can move the market

All part of the turf for a Rupert Murdoch company perhaps, but Sky Sports certainly endures a lot of cynicism for a sports network which has done so much to transform the quality of football broadcasting. One of the more insane rumours doing the rounds last week was that Sky had been deliberately attempting to force Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid because it would limit BT Sport's access to a player they are paying handsomely to be a brand ambassador. But the volume of responses to the observation, briefly raised in this column last week, that people are uneasy about the relationship between Sky Sports and Sky Bet suggests that they do have some explaining to do.

The pattern which unsettles so many people runs thus: Sky runs a story. Sky Bet pops up with the odds on screen or on Sky's Twitter feed. Punters throw money at the story. Sky Bet cuts the odds. And then Sky says the story has evaporated. Or, as someone put it on Twitter last week: "Oi @SkySportsNews, how much money did @SkyBet just make after you reported Man Utd wanted Mesut Ozil?"

There is no suggestion that Sky Bet was attempting to profit from that Ozil story or any other. The BBC and some newspapers were also suggesting on transfer deadline day that Ozil was in United's sights – when the club had actually rejected an offer to buy the German weeks earlier. But the potential for a conflict of interest plainly exists because Sky Bet is the only bookmaker with a sister company which has the potential to influence and move the betting market. Sky Sports News does that all the time, though there is no suggestion that they do this knowingly for financial gain.

Sky Sports' internal rules are actually far more exacting than some might realise. For example, any Sky journalist found to be betting as a result of information received in the course of work would be subject to disciplinary action. That's more stringent than the BBC – which has no specific guidelines on that conduct, though which says it could be seen as a conflict of interest – and arguably more so than The Independent, whose code of conduct compels its journalists to prevent any situation arising which is – or could be perceived as being – a conflict of interest. "The perception… can be as damaging as the reality," states the code.

And the part of Ofcom's code preventing broadcasters giving undue promotion to commercial products – which can bring six-figure fines – means that Sky does not venture into territory through which newspapers happily skip. Those "sponsored" player interviews, carried in the print media with crude promotional taglines, are passed up by Sky because they fall foul of Ofcom's test.

Yet the scepticism will remain for as long as this dubious betting market for player and managerial moves exists, with all the opportunities it provides. There are more opportunities than some imagine: embargoed stories from the Press Association, for example, provide advance information in good enough time to bet.

Journalists are inevitably the ones the public will be incensed about, but the potential financial gain is immeasurably greater for players, managers, their families and friends. It's seven years now since the Football Association investigated whether anyone close to Harry Redknapp might have profited from his re-appointment at Portsmouth, where bets on him taking the job – which he did – reached as high as £25,000 at odds of 2-5. Though Redknapp was not found to have gained financially, the betting movements are always a prime indicator of which manager is moving where.

The former FA chairman Lord Triesman declared during his tenure that he wanted a blanket ban on betting on football by players, managers and officials, in an attempt to end any ambiguity and protect the integrity of English football. That eminently wise notion seems like ancient history now, in a sport which permits players to bet on leagues and competitions other than their own – as if anyone really thinks that they are not privy to inside information from contacts or former team-mates; a sport which is rampantly promoting bookmakers in return for a cut of their money, irrespective of the abundance of gambling addicts within the game, whose debts make them a potential target for criminal syndicates. We're inured to the insidious relationship between football and the gambling industry. The FA and Premier League both have betting partners. The Football League has re-named itself after one.

The Sky conspiracies are still out there. A Liverpool forum forwards the idea that Willian to Anfield might have been promoted by the network to make the odds on his eventual move to Chelsea more attractive. More proof that Sky's decision to run a betting firm as well as a news business has done its journalists no favours. But there are many more reasons to feel cynical about a sport up to its neck in the gambling business.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments