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Ron Strack

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Football pundits from the BBC and ITV are using social media to promote gambling to millions of young fans during the World Cup.

Former England internationals, including Alan Shearer and Jermaine Jenas, have been given lucrative contracts to act as ambassadors for various betting companies.

Taking advantage of their exposure to millions of viewers, they share tips and push promotions to their legions of Twitter followers during the tournament in Russia.

The afternoon before the opening ceremony, BBC pundit Shearer had already retweeted two tweets by bookmakers Coral to his nearly 650, 000 followers.

Football pundits like Jermaine Jenas from the BBC and ITV are using social media to promote gambling to millions of young fans during the World Cup

After signing a year-long deal as an ambassador for the gambling firm, the company's PR director described Shearer as 'quite simply the biggest football signing in Coral's history'.

Meanwhile, fellow BBC pundit Jenas also joined in 24 hours before the tournament began, tweeting a video on behalf of UniBet.

BBC guidelines state that 'care must be taken' when promoting alcohol, high interest financial products, or gambling.

As part of an investigation into the extent to which the gambling industry has penetrated the World Cup, the Mail can also reveal:

Young football fans are being barraged by gambling adverts on TV as they get home from school, with a fifth of those shown during ITV's coverage devoted to betting firms;

Every one of the seven advert breaks between 2.30pm and 6pm - peak watching times for children - during the tournament's opening game featured at least one gambling advert, with nine shown in total;

Campaigners warn that betting advertising during sporting events has reached a 'tipping point' and the UK is at risk of 'normalising gambling for children';

MPs and the Local Government Association called for 'tighter restrictions' on gambling advertising - particularly where children were being tempted by free bets.

The number of TV gambling adverts has surged since 2007, when Tony Blair's Labour government eased restrictions on high street and online betting firms.

Gambling firms are able to use a loophole that lets them advertise before the 9pm watershed if it is during a live televised sporting event.

Studies show youngsters are extremely susceptible to advertising, and more vulnerable to gambling addiction than adults.

With about 25,000 problem gamblers aged between 11 and 16, the Gambling Commission warned last year that Britain was 'sleepwalking into a future public health storm'.

The afternoon before the opening ceremony, BBC pundit Shearer had already retweeted two tweets by bookmakers Coral to his nearly 650,000 followers

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