The Imitation Games

FC Barcelona’s global betting partner, the controversial Russian bookmaker 1XBet, is regularly offering in-play odds and livestreamed videos of “fake” sporting competitions – including one football league with a team that shares the Catalans’ name.

By Jack Kerr

The five-year deal between Barcelona and 1XBet was signed in July in 2019. On their homepage, Barcelona wrote: "As a result of this agreement, FC Barcelona and 1XBET will be working together in different activations (Sic) from a wide range of assets, including access to the players to create promotional material and marketing campaigns."

That meant that the Russian betting company had access to some of the most famous players in the world, including their then superstar Lionel Messi.  Josep Pont, a member of the Barcelona board and head of commercial, was thrilled when the partnership was announced: 
“We are convinced that this deal with 1XBET will help us to continue to grow both on and off the field. This deal consolidates our global expansion strategy and we are sure that it will help us to connect with new sports fans all around the world”.

Neither Alex Sommers, spokesperson for 1XBet, could hide his delight:
“We are very pleased to reach an agreement with one of the best clubs in the world. We are certain that 1XBET has something to offer to all FC Barcelona fans. We expect that the cooperation of two world-class brands will be lucrative for both parties. Barcelona’s slogan is ‘More than a club’ and we hope that over the next 5 years, the fans will come to realise that 1XBET is more than a bookmaker.”

Along with sides like ‘Liverpool’, ‘D...

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