A Scandal? You can Bet on It.
There was a certain irony about last week, three international cricketers jailed for their part in a betting scandal, while virtually a whole country stopped for a horse race; one that saw Western Australians bet a record of over $13 million on this year's race alone.
The football fraternity shook its head at the cricket hierarchy and wondered how the Gentleman’s game could find itself in such a situation.
Yet football has not been without its betting scandals, in the 60’s Tony Kay, Peter Swann and David Layne were all banned from the game and served prison terms for taking money for Sheffield Wednesday to lose against Ipswich Town.
In the 90’s Hans Segers, Bruce Grobbelaar and John Fashanu were also accused, but cleared of throwing Football League games – The Premier League had not started at the time. In December 1997, Grobbelaar and Segers were found guilty by the Football Association of breaching betting regulations.
It is virtually impossible at the present time to watch a game of football and not have either a betting company’s logo or brand thrust before you on shirts, advertising hoardings or straight out advertising on the television.
Even if you avoid that you are being given the odds by the broadcaster not only on the result but all manner of other betting options.
This being the case is football walking a tightrope?
The bookmakers would not be investing so heavily around the game unless there was money to be made, a strong return on investment is no doubt expected.
Footballers like all top sportsmen live off the highs that they get from the adrenalin rush of a big game, a similar rush that many former players who have lost their fortunes have said they have found in gambling.
Many may be looking at cricket and scoffing at how the International Cricket Council did nothing to nip match fixing and spot- betting in the bud, but what are football’s authorities doing at the current time?
It will surely only be a matter of time before we hear of players being bought, as they were previously to carry out acts on which punters can bet during a game. Who can forget the betting that was available on a game's first throw-in, and how players were being paid to put the ball out of play?
Those running the game in Australia and internationally need to keep an eye on the money the game is getting from betting agencies, as it could ultimately bite them back.
The day may well come where all sports, not just football have to ban betting advertising, just as they did with cigarettes.
Interesting times are ahead, let us hope we act now rather than when the horse has bolted.