French regulators warn media: no close-up on risky financial product ads during football games

Maria Nikolova

Available tech means must be used to avoid giving any exposure to ads of toxic financial products, AMF and CSA say.

The grand final of the FIFA World Cup 2018 is just a couple of days away, with the French team set to play against the Croatians in Moscow – millions of eyes will be staring at TV screens on Sunday, July 15, 2018… There is nothing astonishing then that the French authorities are trying to protect football (soccer) fans from being exposed to ads of investment products whose advertising is prohibited in France.

A tricky situation has arisen because France’s Sapin 2 law bans digital advertising of financial products like binary options and certain CFDs, as well as sponsorships related to such products, whereas other countries, including the championship host Russia, do not impose such restrictions. Chances are high that the French media, while providing coverage of the football games, will directly or indirectly expose viewers to ads that are strictly prohibited in France.

That is why, earlier today, France’s Financial Markets Authority (AMF) and the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) have issued a joint communication for media, including radio and TV stations providing coverage of sports events.

Media must refrain from promoting the visualization of ads of toxic financial products. If they have the technical means, they must take special care to ensure that there is no close-up of the trademarks or advertisements in question. They have to refrain from referring to such ads, brands and trademarks in the oral commentary of the competition.

These same principles must, as far as possible, govern the choice of short excerpts from the games.

Football is a passion for the French, and, hence, it is a sensitive topic in France. Earlier this year, Robert Ophèle, Chairman of the French Financial Markets Authority (AMF), criticized the sponsors of FC Atletico Madrid. Mr Ophèle greeted the efforts of ESMA to impose restrictions on the offering of risky financial products. He noted that although ESMA will impose restrictions temporarily, the national regulators may impose them on a permanent basis.

“I observe, however, that this approach is far from homogenous in Europe as you have probably noticed yourself thanks to the match Marseille v Madrid. Our Spanish friends tolerate the sponsorship of their teams by financial intermediaries that specialize in toxic products, a practice that we were able to eradicate in France and that is prohibited by the Sapin 2 law”, said Robert Ophèle.

Whether French media will follow the directions issued by the regulators remains to be seen.

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