Following Joey Barton’s ban from football by the English FA, Paul Goodwin from the Scottish Football Supporters Association raises questions over football’s relationship with betting.
If there is one thing that you can bet on it is that we have not heard the end of the stories surrounding gambling and football. One football pundit described the cases we know about as being the tip of a very big iceberg.
Of course yesterday was the day that the football authorities threw the book at Joey Barton with the punishment for his offenses in both Scotland and England potentially ending his playing career. That in itself was an interested story for the headline writers; but many feel we are only scratching the surface with this story.
However, the Barton story has raised as many questions as we have answers. With the world of football still recovering from the horror stories at FIFA and UEFA and with match fixing still a problem in many countries it seems that football is intent in walking into another scandal of its own making.
Is a sad reflection of where our game is that it can attract so few blue chip companies to the table instead we have a plethora of betting companies. These sponsorships are designed to attract as many people with an interest in football to bet with them.
We of course have to accept that betting companies are major sponsors of the game here in Scotland but if the Scottish FA don’t want to be accused of sleeping on the job then much work needs to be done to address some of the many concerns that these uneasy relationships bring.
Who monitors this betting activity and why has it taken so long for it to be brought to attention? What counselling is available for players caught in the web of activity, how many are caught every season, how many are not caught?
We don’t know what support there is for players both young and old who have the compulsive nature that draws to an unhealthy obsession with gambling.
Barton, ina statement following the FA’s decision said, “I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem – I’m disappointed it wasn’t taken into proper consideration.”
You have to see beyond the immediacy of the sponsorship money and accept that just like other sponsorships that have gone before, such as tobacco and alcohol, the sport we love needs to tread very carefully and potentially adjust its moral compass.
It is an uneasy relationship that needs managing with care and consideration not just for the players of the game but also for the young fans that we are trying to attract to the game.