Michael Calvin: Hypocrisy of football's links to gambling laid bare by FA
Roy Hodgson named his last squad in front of an ad for a bookmaker
Wednesday 09 April 2014
The Football Association strode purposefully towards the centre of a moral maze today, when its ruling council unanimously agreed to recommend a worldwide betting ban on anyone involved in the top eight tiers of the domestic game.
Announcement of the proposed legislation, due to be ratified by the FA's AGM on 21 May, was preceded by the sacking of Tranmere's manager Ronnie Moore, who has admitted breaching existing betting rules. Prudent punters, tempted to invest on the FA failing to mention the elephant in the Wembley committee room, would have been in profit, had they been able to get a bet on. Football's incestuous relationship with the gambling industry was studiously ignored.
The principle of tightening current rules, which prevent individuals betting on matches on which they have direct or indirect influence, is inarguable and was first proposed in 2009 by former FA chairman Lord Triesman. In an age in which it is dangerous to assume innocence, football has a duty to be diligent. Yet the FA epitomises the hypocrisy which underpins a broader societal problem. Roy Hodgson announced his last England squad while seated in front of a backdrop advertising one of the FA's official sponsors, bookmakers William Hill.
The Football League has a betting company as a title sponsor. The burgeoning profits made through football gambling fund a blanket marketing campaign which has helped make Ray Winstone more recognisable than one of his heroes, West Ham legend Sir Trevor Brooking.
Football has yet to compromise itself in the manner of racing, which often appears swayed by the gambling lobby, but inconsistencies are glaring. The FA has faith in its educational programmes, but it is difficult to see how the new rules, which involve a complete ban on betting on matches, team selection, transfers and the installation of managers, can be enforced.
Anecdotal evidence suggests many players, coaches and support staff at lower levels wager small sums in an attempt to boost meagre wages, yet the problem has manifested itself higher up. Three Premier League players, Andros Townsend, Dan Gosling and Cameron Jerome, have been recently punished for contravening regulations.
The case for forcing bookmakers to pay some form of levy, to help protect the game's integrity, is becoming unanswerable.
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