The dichotomy is not unique to Scotland, where players and coaches and executives are banned from wagering on soccer despite heavy sponsorship of teams and leagues and competitions by betting
Many teams and leagues around the world sell shirt sponsorships and other marketing assets to shops and companies that take bets on soccer. Yet according to John Rankin
chairman of the Scotland Professional Footballers Association (PFA), illegal betting permeates the Scottish game at all levels. He lumps in managers, referees, directors and chairmen along with
players as culprits.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, who plays for Queen of the South, Rankin said
imposed bans, that's not stopping it. It's rife, we're not hiding from it. The majority are probably doing it.”
Rankin has no figures to back up his speculation. His comments came a
few days after Burnley midfielder Joey Barton
was banned from the game by the English FA for 18 months. He has placed more than 1,000 bets during the past decade, including bets on his own
teams, which is expressly forbidden.
Barton did not bet on any games in which he played and the ban imposed by the FA is the shortest possible punishment that could be imposed. According
to Rankin, such betting is commonplace.
Rankin told BBC Radio Scotland, "It's not just players who are gambling. Managers, referees, directors, chairmen, they've all got inside
knowledge. Are you telling me they don't have betting accounts? I would suggest they have.”
That last remark hits home. Account betting, which is funded by a client who can
place bets via phone or the Internet, allows those involved in professional soccer to place bets discreetly rather than frequenting the thousands of betting shops available in England and Scotland.
Many fans love visiting their local shop to take a flutter on their team to win or favorite player to score the first goal, yet the concern over gambling is strong enough that the Scottish
Football Supporters Association has urged a review
of the game's links with gambling.
One of the biggest betting
companies, Ladbrokes, has announced that its sponsorship of the Scottish Professional Football League will continue next season, its third one-year deal with the four leagues that includes the
Scottish Premiership and three lower divisions. The Scottish Cup and League Cup and some clubs are also sponsored by gambling companies.
Ladbrokes Coral chief executive Jim Mullen
said of the renewal, which reportedly is worth about $2.6 million per year, “We are passionate about the game and our love of football has helped to make the past two seasons hugely
Rankin admitted that Scottish football was reliant on sponsorship from betting companies and those who track the industry concur. Betting industry expert Scott Longley
says, “A lot of clubs further down the leagues wouldn't be able to survive without the money that was coming to them via these sponsorships deals, whether that be shirt sponsorships or betting
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster
said, “Ladbrokes has been a terrific and supportive lead sponsor for the SPFL over the last two years. We are
thrilled to extend the partnership for next season, which is another clear message of confidence in Scottish football.”
A Scottish Football Association spokesman said its guidelines
are disseminated and clearly spelled out. It conducts informational sessions and seminars regarding gambling and its potentially destructive consequences.
"The Scottish FA takes its
responsibility towards gambling within football seriously and has clear rules in place prohibiting gambling which apply to players, referees and directors," he said. “In addition, we have
delivered comprehensive gambling education workshops to all 42 SPFL clubs and academies. Scottish football has long enjoyed productive relationships with a number of betting companies and we are
grateful for their continued support of our national game.”
Scottish Senior Football Referees Association chairman Crawford Allan
said that PFA (Professional Referees’
Association) Scotland has not referenced any concerns about gambling influences on match officials. Referees can place bets in shops and maintain betting accounts but under no circumstances are
they permitted to wager on soccer.
“As an association, we over time have informed all of our members that gambling on any football match is completely against the rules," he said.
“In my time, it has never been an issue and has never been raised as an issue. They can bet on horse racing or golf or any other sport, but not football.”