In a week where betting enjoys its highest profile of the year with the Grand National at Aintree, another side of the activity has reared its head with news that Longford Town have suspended a player and the FAI has begun an investigation into an allegation of match fixing.
Sport, and soccer in particular has a very mixed relationship with betting. Last night one of the world’s biggest clubs, Real Madrid played 90 minutes on prime time TV in the UEFA Champions’ League with the name of a prominent betting sponsor on the front of their shirts.
And yet great concern has been expressed within the sport and at government level about the effects of gambling on the integrity of the sport and the wellbeing of participants. European legal expert Benoit Keane spoke about exactly this subject at the recent EU Conference on Sport in Dublin Castle.
Longford Town acted after an internal probe and the matter has now been taken up by the FAI acting under guidance from UEFA. Gardaí are being kept informed in case of any criminal offences emerging but there is no timeline on the investigation.
A simple statement on the Longford Town website reads: “Longford Town FC wish to inform their supporters that the Club is in receipt of information with regard to a Longford Town player’s possible involvement in activities which could be construed as conspiring to influence the results of matches. As a result of this information received Longford Town FC is obliged to notify the relevant authorities and conduct an internal investigation into the matter. The internal investigation has commenced. Subsequently one player has been suspended by the Club while the investigation takes place. The Club are compliant with all rules in this matter and will co-operate fully with any investigations.”
The FAI itself has Boylesports as an official partner but this is perfectly natural in an environment where soccer betting has overtaken horse racing as the most popular medium for betting as entertainment in a sector that attracts hundreds of millions of bettors, most of whom play to small stakes every day of the week.
The FAI attended the Sport for Business Round Table on Betting which took place last October, the outputs of which can be read here.
There have been recent high profile cases of betting causing problems among GAA players and even sailing was the subject of intense media interest over a bet revealed on the eve of last summer’s Olympics.
Late last year Dessie Farrell of the Gaelic Players Association referred to betting problems among players as being “like a freight train coming down the tracks.”
The latest example is said not to involve any matches played this season and the speed at which authorities have acted is tribute to the fact that the problem is being given serious consideration.
It is though the latest in a line of incidents and rumours that collectively run the risk of damaging sport and also casting a shadow of one of the largest existing and potential sponsorship streams in sport around the world and in Ireland.
Clearly there is a need to address the issue sooner rather than later and Sport for Business will host a special Round Table on the subject in early May with details to be announced over the coming days. If you are interested in participating please contact us today.
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