Alan Brazil: No sympathy for the gambling footballers

Joey Barton leaves training at the Rangers Football Centre (PA)
Joey Barton leaves training at the Rangers Football Centre (PA)

RULES are rules.

When it comes to footballers betting on the game that employs them, they couldn’t be clearer – it’s not allowed.

That’s why I don’t feel sorry for anyone in the game who’s caught gambling.

Everybody knows where they stand. Nobody has any excuse.

That said, I’m seeing more and more stories about players and officials being done for betting on football these days.

For me, that means the game has a problem, and one that needs to be solved.

After Joey Barton’s 18-month ban a few weeks back, the SFA have now charged Annan Athletic chairman Henry McClelland and Inverness Caley Thistle defender Lewis Horner for placing bets on games – some involving their respective teams.

By anyone’s standards, that is completely out of order.

But some of the bets allegedly placed by both guys date back almost six years, and that has got me thinking.

I know for a fact that professional footballers bet on football.

I’m not talking about a majority of players – and I’m not going to name any names – but it happens.

That’s not in question.

The guys who do it are taking the mick – and many have been for a long time.

Their actions suggest the anti-betting message is simply not getting through.

The authorities seem to be of the opinion that the best way to hammer it home is to hammer offenders.

Former SFA compliance officer, Vincent Lunny, reckons even stiffer penalties are required.

I’m not so sure.

I’m on board with the idea that there should be a one-off amnesty for players and officials to come clean and move forward with a clean slate.

After that there would be no hiding place and no excuse whatsoever.

It would also be a perfect time for those at the top of the game to examine the problem of gambling more closely.

Some people – and some people in football – aren’t just casual gamblers. They have a problem.

These people should be offered both short-term help and long-term support to find a way out of it.

That’s the biggest and most valuable thing the powers that be could do.

Some think football needs to reassess its relationship with the gambling industry too.

I don’t agree.

Just because a minority of people have addiction issues doesn’t mean that a blanket change in policy is needed.

Yes, football is quite happy to take sponsorship money from bookies while telling players they can’t bet themselves. I’ve heard it argued that’s a hypocritical position. What half-baked nonsense!

Where should the line be drawn? Which other businesses should football turn their back on in case players are tempted?

Fast food? Booze? Forget it.

The bottom line is this – people involved in football are adults and need to take responsibility for their actions.

For those struggling with an addiction, whether it’s gambling or anything else, help should be given.

For those who simply won’t help themselves, there are punishments available to the game’s governing bodies.

A firm line in the sand must be redrawn. The rulebook is clear.

It’s time to make sure everybody is on the same page.