Paul Parker

Jaded players at root of betting scams

Paul Parker

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It is always disappointing to hear any allegations of match-fixing or betting scams in football, especially when they relate to British football.

Reports of the arrests last week as part of an inquiry into irregularities surrounding Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings's red card in a match last year were inevitably grabbed more attention because Wayne Rooney's father was one of those questioned - though he vigorously denies any wrongdoing, and Jennings has always maintained his innocence. Regardless of who is involved, however, such cases are of the utmost seriousness and should be treated as such.

Most people in the game will have at least heard tales about fellow professionals doing things to affect the result of their team's match for financial gain, though understandably very few names ever crop up. It's usually a friend of a friend-type stuff, stories lacking much in the way of detail.

In this day and age, when even players in the lower leagues still earn a pretty comfortable living, it is hard to understand why they would want to jeopardise their team's results, their own career and even their very freedom just for the sake of an extra bit of cash.

One explanation is that it is usually players disillusioned with the game who are the ones tempted into such activities. If football has been your whole life ever since you were a child, but after a few years as a professional your career is not panning out as you would have hoped, many footballers can becomes sick of playing the sport they loved so much when they were growing up. It just becomes a job to them.

You see plenty of talented players come through academies at some top clubs only to gradually slip down the divisions. Quite often that is because they have grown tired of the game. These are the players that people involved in syndicates are likely to try and target to help them influence results.

An extra few grand will mean more to one player than another, but perhaps it is as much about the thrill of getting away with it, the risk versus reward factor, that makes up a big part of the appeal, rather like placing a bet itself. Maybe it is a way of injecting some of the thrill back into playing, who knows?

However, just because you are poor that does not give you the right to steal; if you are not earning well, that is no justification for doing anything untoward. Money should not be the primary motivator in sport, but if you feel you are not earning what you are worth then all you can do is work harder in training and matches. Making a fast buck here and there will never be as lucrative in the long-term as becoming a better player.

I don't really have a problem with players betting on their team to win, but it is probably better to avoid the issue altogether by not making any gambles to do with any match you are involved in of any kind.

Getting yourself sent off after betting on yourself to do so may not be the same as deliberately scoring an own goal or something like that, but it still has an undeniable effect on that match and so ruins the integrity of the game.

Both the legal and footballing authorities need to come down like a tonne of bricks on anyone found guilty of any betting activity that has an effect on a result. Lifetime bans from the game at all levels must be handed out as a matter of course. It is the only way to stop others taking such stupid risks.

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