It is well known that Gambling is a problem within the game of football, not only in Scotland but across the world. Recently, we have seen Brian Rice admit to his issues with addiction. By looking at the disciplinary updates from the SFA we can see that he is not alone with this issue, with 10 breaches of rule 31 within the last year.
Rule 31 of the disciplinary rules state that “no club, official, Team Official or other member of Team Staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall engage in gambling of any description on football”.
By reading the recent statement on the official Hamilton Accies website, you can really understand how hard it has been for him to fall back into this habit and from a personal level I have nothing but praise for his strength and courage to not only come out with this statement admitting his addiction but also self-reporting his actions. With this being such a regular occurrence, I thought I would take a look at why it is especially bad in Scotland and should the SFA be doing more pro-actively to prevent this rather than being reactive and simply punishing the offenders?
As mentioned before, this is not only a problem in Scotland. In December alone, there were 15 charges by the English FA relating to betting. Marcus Hall of Soham Town was fined £4,400 for betting on 6,314 bets between the 1st August 2014 & 10th September 2019, equating to over 3 bets a day on football in this time frame. Again similar to Brian Rice of Hamilton Academical playing in the Ladbrokes Premier League, Soham Town compete in the BetVictor Isthmian League North Division. I agree with the charge but it is clear to see that this was not a one off bit of fun for the player but another case of addiction and surely better ways to help than a financial penalty?
Taking a look at the sponsorship of all competitions in Scotland, we know that the majority are sponsored by Bookmakers. We have the Ladbrokes league competitions, William Hill Scottish Cup, Betfred League Cup and even McBookie sponsoring junior competitions. For a country that has such a problem with Gambling, surely there are better sponsors more suited? As we can see in the table below, the number of competitions sponsored by Bookmakers in Scotland is considerably larger than other countries in Europe.
Top Countries in Europe and Their Main League Sponsors
|Country||Bookmaker Sponsors||Country||Bookmaker Sponsors|
Football in Scotland is heavily reliant on money from Sponsorship deals as income from TV deals is considerably less than other top countries in Europe, despite Brian Rice’s admission Hamilton Accies chief executive Colin McGowan still believes that income from the gambling industry is still welcome at the club. For many clubs in Scotland, without the money from Gambling companies they would be unable to continue on a full-time basis.
I don’t believe that there hasn’t been alternative interest in sponsoring major competitions in Scotland; we could even look at the model used in the Netherlands where the Eredivisie has been sponsored by the state lottery since 2005. The Dutch government was against them being involved in the name as it is promoting another game of chance. In Scotland, it may be time for the government to get involved and possibly help out with any shortfall from being sponsored by a non-gambling firm. This would not only help with players addicted but the general public who are in a similar state.
Similarly to the Netherlands the government in Italy also stepped in, with the deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio announcing a ban on gambling adverts restricting clubs from having gambling sponsors. The Serie A had similar comments to Colin McGowan, believing that without income from bookmakers they would be at disadvantage against other European countries because of lack of funds for players and staff.
If we look at club sponsorship in the United Kingdom, we can also see a number of different gambling companies with shirt sponsorship. We can then look again at why players bet, an addict having to wear a shirt with logo of a betting company will find it harder to resist the urge than those not. We can take a look at the Paddy Power sponsorship of Motherwell and other clubs with their save our shirt campaign, although the main priority was to give a clean sponsor free shirt it also removes the promotion of another gambling firm on the pitch and across the media.
In conclusion, the SFA should look at alternative punishments for footballers who fall foul of the disorder; a maximum penalty of nearly 100,000 pound is not suitable for this case. Those that are addicted often have financial problems because of large losses; a penalty to this amount could potentially cripple them. It may be more suitable to give a suspension while they have to report to a gambling advice group instead.
From a sponsorship perspective, we can see Scotland has considerably more leagues sponsored by Gambling companies compared to other countries in Europe. Due to the poor television deals, clubs rely on income from these big sponsorship contracts. The SFA should do more to negotiate a better TV deal and follow countries like the Netherlands where sponsorship is still available to Gambling companies, but it is not associated with the name of the competition.