Campbell's match-fixing warning over betting surge
Gambling's growing popularity among young people leaves the GAA open to the risk of match-fixing, according to former Galway hurler Justin Campbell.
It's a grim prognosis but Campbell, who manages Roscommon, believes that as the country's largest sporting organisation, the GAA is facing the toughest challenge of all. And he warned that unless the problem is addressed, cheating could become prevalent, especially at club level.
"The way gambling is going, match-fixing in the GAA is not far away. Online gambling is massive. People can bet 24 hours a day on their mobile phones, which is frightening," he said.
Campbell is adamant that the growth in betting presents a real problem for Irish society in general at a time when alcohol issues are also causing concern.
"I am saying this for certain. Gambling will be at epidemic levels in the next five to ten years. It's absolutely huge even now.
"We have the major bookmaking firms running betting on colleges games involving 15/16/17 year-olds and the worrying thing is that many of these young players are betting on themselves.
"Teachers are appalled by at this latest turn of events. The betting firms are trying to make money on kids and it's wrong," said Campbell in an interview with Séamus Duke in this week's Roscommon People.
Campbell, who won All-Ireland medals with Galway U-21s in 1991 and Kiltormer a year later, works as an addiction counsellor, having had personal problems with alcohol some years ago.
The GPA has highlighted the gambling problems experienced by many footballers and hurling, while the GAA made a submission to the Department of Justice and Equality, seeking to prevent betting on games involving schools and juveniles.
Campbell believes that addiction issues - including both gambling and alcohol - may be increased by driving young players too hard.
"They are reaching the limits of what they can take and if they get injured or lose their form, are we adding to their stress levels? That's a major question."
Campbell, who travels extensively to give talks on addiction, believes that it's vital that those in charge of teams recognise the signs in a player.
"We want a situation where GAA coaches and managers are able to spot the signs, chat to the player and maybe organise help for him. The last thing we want is for young people to be suffering without help.
"Gambling is now a huge and growing problem and I see the same traits in people who have addictions, whether it's drink, gambling or drugs," he said.