Monday 26 August 2019

John Giles: The beautiful game has to look at association with gambling interests

Read John Giles' exclusive column every week in The Herald

Joey Barton has criticised football's links to the gambling industry, including through sponsorship
Joey Barton has criticised football's links to the gambling industry, including through sponsorship

John Giles

EVERY time I hear Ray Winstone’s hardman voice encouraging me to bet, but bet sensibly, I have to laugh. If everyone did that, betting companies would go out of business.

These days, gambling is attached to football like a limpet and Joey Barton is a very unlucky lad. There has rarely been anything Barton has said or done that made me think any better of him. He’s a man who clearly has issues and one of them is a gambling addiction.

But I don’t think his betting did anything to erode the integrity of football. Barton’s betters have already done the damage where that is concerned.

He’s not a very good gambler and he registered an account in his own name, almost as if he wanted to be caught. Other footballers have had their accounts suspended but his seems to have muddled along for years.

He bet on his own team and lost almost all the time but that was the line he crossed and to be honest, I don’t see how his sins could have been forgiven.

The fact that an 18-month ban effectively ends his career is neither here nor there. Do the crime, do the time.

What annoys me is the hypocrisy of it all. The betting industry has had its hooks into football and all sport for a long time now. Barton is not the problem here, or worth any more sympathy than the thousands of ordinary people who share his addiction, the ones you won’t hear anything about.

He is just one of many targeted by the betting companies through football. All the satellite channels revel in gambling and make huge money from the advertising they do before, during and after games of football.

Football authorities are scared stiff of gambling but they all do business with the betting companies. There’s nothing like cash to ease ethical qualms.

Gambling is everywhere. It’s on animated advertisements that run around the pitch and catch your eye while you are trying to watch the play.

It’s there when Winstone gives a cinematic performance while he talks about accumulators and doubles.

It was even on Joey Barton’s jersey every time he put on his Burnley kit. It doesn’t excuse him but it is surely relevant.

Gambling has always been around in the game but attitudes and accessibility have made it a much bigger problem.

I was lucky. There was a slot machine in a local shop near my house when I was a kid and I found out fairly quickly that my pennies disappeared into it and very rarely gave me anything back. And  in my day there were no rules against betting. Even betting against your own team was not sanctioned.

There were scandals and the odd game you would walk away from and wonder “what was that about?” But the men involved were gamblers before they were footballers and I don’t think that has changed.

I don’t think football leads you into gambling but it does provide opportunity with the amount of time off available and the means because of the massive salaries now being paid.

And spare me the notion that it has anything to do with boredom as some have suggested in the last week.

There are many way for wealthy young lads to alleviate boredom without pouring their money down a hole.

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