Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, believes that football in this country remains a sport that can be trusted but accepts that players are "vulnerable" to the temptations offered by the spread of gambling.
Taylor was responding to Andy Mangan's revelations in yesterday's Independent that players in the lower divisions were continuing to bet on the outcome of their own matches despite it breaking Football Association rules.
Mangan was given a five-month ban in 2009 after placing a bet of £3,500 on a match involving Bury and Accrington which took place in May 2008. He bet on his club, Bury, to win the match. Four Accrington players were also banned after betting on their club to lose.
Mangan's revelations are troubling news for the PFA. Asked whether he thought football matches could be trusted, Taylor said: "I really do. But I wouldn't say I'm complacent. I believe the integrity is there. But you see problems in sports like cricket, and similarly in football, you can bet on first scorer, first corner and other things. We need to be mindful that all people in football can be vulnerable, just the same as any sporting profession. That's why education is vital."
Taylor has previously called for a "zero tolerance" approach to gambling on football, meaning players would be forbidden from placing any bets at all, where the current FA regulations only bar footballers from wagering on any match or competition in which they are participants.
He reasoned that it "might have been seen as a bit hypocritical" of the professional game to take such a stance when it receives financial support from the betting industry and when football is so popular among gamblers. "The betting industry gets more money from football now than it does from horse racing," Taylor said.
The PFA has invested in a programme designed to caution young players, in particular, about the perils of becoming too involved in gambling.
"We are trying to reinforce the message to players regarding the FA rules," said Taylor. "The same message is going out through the Professional Players Federation, which covers a wide range of sports. It's an education programme aimed at younger players, but all players are able to access it."
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