Gordon Taylor's position as chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association was coming under increasing threat tonight in the wake of allegations that he accrued gambling debts of over £100,000.
Taylor spent today in talks with fellow executives and players' representatives at the PFA's HQ in Manchester as he tried to save a job he has held since 1981. The chances of the 68-year-old remaining in his post appear slim.
Taylor has only recently preached the need for his members to acknowledge their "social responsibility" as well as frequently highlighting the perils of gambling for young, wealthy players. Gambling has long been a problem in football, whether as an integrity issue or more straightforward addiction, with players running up vast debts. Taylor has previously called for "zero tolerance" of gambling.
There was no response from Taylor, who refused to comment on leaving the PFA offices tonight, or the PFA to the allegations carried in today's Sun, which claimed the 68-year-old had gambled £4m through some 2,000 bets over two and a half years.
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and a campaigner around gambling issues, believes Taylor has some "serious questions to answer", and the sport as a whole needs to address the intrusiveness of gambling in the game.
"I think there is a conflict of interest there," said Lammy, addressing the allegations made against Taylor. "There is an increasing call for football governance to step up, really step up and raise their game and get serious about this issue, and this is another indication of a lack of seriousness. I think there are some serious questions to answer."
While Taylor has not been accused of anything illegal, the revelations remain damning for a man in charge of the players' union and at a time of growing concern over gambling within the game. Tottenham Hotspur's Andros Townsend, called up to the England squad for the first time this week, was fined and given a four-month ban, with three suspended, earlier this summer for infringing the Football Association's betting regulations – players cannot bet on any competition their club is involved in.
Stoke City's Cameron Jerome was this month fined £50,000 after admitting a breach. Also this month Robert Heys, Accrington Stanley's managing director, was suspended from football for 21 months after admitting 735 breaches of betting rules.
Taylor is alleged to owe Best Bet, a telephone betting firm that has ceased trading, £104,000. In a detailed list of his betting activity The Sun states he gambled £47,500 on horse racing in one day in January. He also bet on football matches.
Three years ago he said while discussing cricket's spot-fixing scandal: "In this day and age footballers must now look at zero tolerance… While it might be a sledgehammer to crack a nut, we feel it's time that the players' union backed a zero tolerance stance against betting." In January this year he said: "We are trying to educate players to use their spare time to train for a life after football, which comes to everybody. You can lead a lot of horses to water, but you can't make them all drink."
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