How do you find out that a footballer is betting on the game? They don’t walk into bookies and hand a slip over at the counter, this stuff is all done on smartphones or by telephone.
Betting information is protected by the Data Protection Act, the SFA have no authority to ask and bookmakers have no authority to tell, even if they know a player is breaking SFA rules.
Even if a player sits in the dressing room, and announces that he’s just bet on the match about to take place, and all his team-mates reported him, he would be able to dismiss the charge on the basis that his comments were a joke. No one could prove otherwise.
But, very specific charges are levelled at players.
The betting industry survives on the quality of their information being better than that of their customers. “Are you likely to win at the weekend?”, “Any inside info on who the new manager will be?”, “Who’s struggling to be fit for Saturday (and therefore unlikely to be first scorer)?”
If you are a player, you have the inside line on a market worth hundreds of millions each year. Football has an unhealthy relationship with bookmakers, at some clubs, the betting partner has their own lounge and has full access to the players’ lounge. Many players are big gamblers and some have big incomes. They are both significant clients for bookies and potential sources of inside information. Like many big gamblers, they are offered special odds, not available to the general public.
Let me tell you one way of catching a player who is gambling on football. He is tempted away from his old bookie to one who has become friendly with, possibly after giving his former bookie a bum steer on a striker who was supposed to be injured. The former bookie then ‘discovers’ that the name on one of their accounts doesn’t match the name on the linked bank account, and that this account holder is a footballer.
The bookie is now officially concerned that illegal match fixing is going on. With the possibility of criminality (even if it is without basis), they can alert the authorities. That would teach the player a lesson for leaving, while making money through advantageous odds and feeding bum information back, and destroy whatever competitive advantage the other bookie has.
Does anyone know of any other way a specific charge of gambling on football could be raised?
Maybe the players are all just daft laddies. Maybe the SFA decline to release reports into players gambling because there is nothing to see in them. Maybe you can break the rules on betting but not be punished because it’s a silly rule.
You don’t need to be match fixing to be involved in serious criminality when dealing with a bookmaker. The football watching public need transparency from the SFA on this issue, no matter how much money floods into the game from the gambling industry.
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