Gleeson and Long banned for betting scandal

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The Independent Online

Sean Long and Martin Gleeson have paid the price for placing bets against their own St Helen's team by being suspended for three and four months respectively.

A four-hour hearing in Leeds last night found the two Great Britain internationals guilty of misconduct in making the bets, which won them £900 each, contrary to the Rugby League's bylaws. The players have also been fined £7,500 each and ordered each to pay costs of £2,205, but the suspensions will be a bigger blow. Long will be available for the end of season Super League play-offs but Gleeson's domestic season is over.

In his adjudication, Judge Peter Charlesworth explained that Gleeson's punishment was more severe because he played in the match at Bradford on Easter Monday, while Long was left out.

"We are quite satisfied, however, that Martin Gleeson in fact played to the best of his ability and this is not a case of match fixing or anything like it," the adjudication says.

The ruling also passes part of the responsibility to the club, whose coach, Ian Millward, still insists that all the players who missed the match at Odsal were genuinely injured. "Their actions only arose out of the unique opportunity presented to them by the decision of St Helen's to play such an unexpectedly weakened team at Bradford.''

The executive Chairman of the Rugby League, Richard Lewis, said there was no evidence that "betting against the rules of Rugby League is a widespread problem". Both players had claimed they were not aware of an RFL bylaw prohibiting them from betting on a match in which their club was involved.

"Ignorance is not a defence," Lewis said. "They are professional players and it is in the adjudication that they admitted they knew it was wrong." Long and Gleeson have 15 days to appeal, but will be out of the game until any appeal is heard.

Their absence is also a blow for Great Britain's hopes in the Tri-Nations tournament against Australia and New Zealand this autumn. Long can play as many as four games before that tournament starts, but Gleeson would have to be thrown in immediately after serving his ban.

Severe though the punishments are, the pair can consider themselves let off lightly by comparison with the former England cricketer, Ed Giddins, who was recently banned for five years after being found guilty of betting against his county, Surrey, in a match in which he did not play.