Latest Cases - September 2013

Betting - football's growing problem…

5th September 2013

Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters’ Verdict

  • Betting – football’s growing problem…
  • The questions I want answered…
  • The ravings of a simple-minded fool…

Betting – football’s growing problem…

It was way back in April 2011 that this column first warned about the possible consequences the explosion in football betting over recent years might have on the game itself.

At the time we were particularly concerned that the lower-level players, coaches and officials – those not making 7-figure sums out of their involvement with the game – would be particularly susceptible to breaking the rules or falling into the hands of criminal match-fixers.

We still wouldn’t bet against that happening. In fact we would be surprised if it weren’t happening right now – in minor leagues all over the world. Where potential profits exist corruption will soon follow. It just hasn’t come to the surface yet. But it will. Give it time. 

For the moment recent revelations suggest it is people closer to the pinnacle of the game we should be most concerned about….

  • A few months ago it was Andros Townsend (Spurs & England) standing on an FA charge after breaching betting rules whilst on loan at QPR last season. He was fined £18,000 and subjected to a ban (most of it suspended).
  • Then Stoke City’s Cameron Jerome (now on loan at Crystal Palace) was found guilty of breaking betting regulations on numerous occasions. He was fined £50,000 and given no ban.

Whilst it hasn’t been revealed exactly what these players were betting on there is no suggestion that they were betting on games or competitions involving the clubs they were involved with at the time.

  • The same can’t be said (yet) about Rangers midfielder, Ian Black. Amongst additional charges he stands accused of betting against clubs he was registered with (Inverness CT & Hearts) between 2006 and 2013. He hasn’t been found guilty yet but faces a judicial panel hearing on September 12th.

And it’s not just players breaking the rules…

  • The FA recently suspended Accrington Stanley’s now ex-Managing Director, Robert Heys, from all football activity for 21 months after he was found guilty of breaching their football betting regulations 735 times! He’d made over 200 bets on matches involving his own club – 37 of which were bets on his own club to lose. In addition to his ban he was fined £1000.

And even the organizers and administrators of the game are not immune to betting activity that gets them into trouble…

  • Over the last few days it has emerged that Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association for the last 32-years, owes a bookmaker £100,000. He isn’t actually bound by any betting regulations and both his betting activity and his personal debt are matters for him. But this is the guy who called for a zero-tolerance approach to gambling issues when Andros Townsend was experiencing his problems in June. He is determined to hang onto his job – part of which involves warning footballers about involvement with betting. Talk about mixed signals…

What does all this mean? We don’t know. But it is something we will be keeping our eye on…

What it suggests is that football has an issue – an issue it is currently confused about (if the arbitrarily applied fines and bans are anything to go by) – that will only grow in the years ahead. You can be certain that the cases we’ve heard about so far represent just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

The questions I want answered…

Right now I just have a couple of questions I’d like answers to –

  • Why hasn’t it been made public what matches Premier League players Cameron Jerome and Andros Townsend were betting on – along with details of the individual bets themselves?

Withholding this information goes against a spirit of openness. If – as we’ve been assured – these young players weren’t betting on games in which their own teams were involved, then where’s the problem? Keeping such pertinent facts under wraps looks bad. Like there’s something to hide or something to protect.

The Premier League is a big product, worth billions, and with markets extending into 200+ countries. It is clearly worth protecting. And nobody wants to see its image tarnished by betting scandals. But any failure to be open when betting issues arise is equally threatening to the Premier League’s ongoing reputation.  

We need openness. We need all the facts on the table for all to see. We need the whole thing to be completely transparent. And right now we don’t have that transparency. And we won’t get it until vested interests are encouraged not to to keep key facts to themselves.

  • Who was Cameron Jerome betting with? Which firms were laying bets to Andros Townsend?

I can forgive bookmakers for not knowing who Ian Black is? Or for not knowing that Robert Heys was involved with Accrington Stanley. But Cameron Jerome and Andros Townsend? They are household names. I’d expect any self-respecting bookmaker – and his employees – to recognize those names and to identify them as big-league footballers. Footballers who should not be betting…. 

Were these players betting under assumed names? Had they taken steps to hide their identities? Were they using the services of front men? Were they betting incognito – donning false moustaches and wigs – and betting anonymously in High Street shops?

Or were they – as I suspect – betting openly? Did they open accounts under their own names and place bets on the phone or the Internet just like any other punter?

And how much were they putting down for these bets? Were they playing for fivers and tenners? If that was the case you can understand how they flew under the radar. But if they were playing for a few grand a time you know full well that the bookie’s software would have flagged their bets and that the bookie would have been aware of the punters placing them.

The point I’m getting at is this: how much did the bookies know about who was betting with them and for how long? Did they alert the authorities immediately? Did they alert them at all? Or did they let the situation drift – and just keep taking the bets? For how long?

Right now we have none of this detail. We need to know the bookmaking industry is doing its bit to ensure betting regulations are not being transgressed by greedy and/or foolish players. And we need to know they are not playing by their own rules and/or seeking to gain a commercial advantage of some sort as and when rules are broken.

 

I know the FA enjoys its relationship with its ‘official betting partner’. I know bookmakers are heavily involved in the sport in the form of sponsorship deals, other commercial contracts and the ownership of clubs. But the integrity of football is more important than commercial considerations and the finer feelings of the bookmaking industry.

We need honesty and openness – even when it hurts. If and when bookmakers knowingly assist players in breaking rules then they need to be exposed and punished too. Anything less simply ensures corrupt practices will continue indefinitely.

The ravings of a simple-minded fool…

An appointment has been made for a brain scan…

The correct medication is currently being sought…

I have taken to my bed. I write to you from behind closed drapes and from beneath thin blankets – unsure how much mileage remains in my recently enfeebled mind.

How long will it be before I am a drooling idiot – fit for nothing but modeling old-man pyjamas and maybe working in parliament? Friends and family assure me it won’t be long now.

We are busy putting together a crack team of full-time carers – people who can help me with the basic everyday tasks it seems I can no longer be trusted to deal with myself…. feeding, washing, turning the TV over, putting bets on, opting into SkyBet offers….that kind of thing…

I was CERTAIN that I’d opted into SkyBet’s Free Bet Club (assess my certainty here). I was so certain I would have happily bet YOUR house on it.

But it seems I am incapable these days of conducting complex operations like pressing single opt—in buttons.

I thought I’d nailed it. I thought I’d pressed that opt-in button like a pro. I thought I’d given SkyBet a lesson in button pressing they’d never forget.

But my mind must have been elsewhere. I must have been imagining things. I must have got confused. Because all week you’ve been telling me I fluffed it.

 

I’ve had dozens of emails from PV readers over the last 7 days. All of them tell me SkyBet’s Free Bet Club has performed impeccably – with all free bets credited exactly when they should be. You’ve all told me that it wasn’t SkyBet who were getting it wrong. It was me.  

Much as it pains me, I have to agree. It seems I hit that opt-in button like Chris Waddle hit his penalty in the shootout with Germany in the 1990 World Cup…

I got it wrong. I missed the target. I put the ball so far over the crossbar it came down with snow on it.

I can report that since successfully managing to opt into the Free Bet Club all free £5.00 bets I’ve been entitled to have been credited promptly. And I look forward to many more of them. Good work, SkyBet. 

I’ll be back with the Verdict next week.

 

The Judge

www.PuntersVerdict.co.uk

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