Rangers midfielder Ian Black yesterday became the first
professional player in Scotland to receive a ban for betting on matches when he was hit with a ten-match suspension.
Black pleaded guilty to betting on 160 matches over seven years while he was a player with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hearts and Rangers. He was fined £7,500, and banned for ten games – seven suspended – and also censured for misconduct.
The charge which counted most seriously against 28-year-old Black, in the eyes of fans and the SFA’s judicial panel, was that he bet on his own team not to win on three occasions.
These matches are believed to include a game between Hearts and Motherwell when Black was at Tynecastle, and a bet on East Stirling to draw with Rangers.
He received a three-match ban for those three offences, the ban to start immediately, unless Black appeals within five days.
The player left the SFA offices within the National Stadium at Hampden with his representative Barry Hughes, the boxing promoter, without saying anything and refusing to answer questions about whether he would appeal.
A further seven-match ban was also handed down by the tribunal for his guilty plea to ten further counts of betting on matches involving his own team. These included a bet on Rangers to win a match against Albion Rovers by more than three goals.
The £7,500 fine was imposedon those two charges and Black was then censured after he admitted betting on a further 147 games.
The offences came to light after Britain’s biggest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, provided evidence from their integrity department to the SFA. The bets are understood to have been made on his telephone betting account.
The major bookmakers nationwide are believed to have become concerned about footballers and club officials betting on matches following changes in gambling laws and the tightening up of licensing deals between themselves and the football authorities.
Accrington Stanley director Robert Heys was recently suspended for 21 months for betting on matches, while during the summer Stoke City player Cameron Jerome received a £50,000 fine and Tottenham Hotspur’s Andros Townsend was fined £18,000.
The charges against Black were made by SFA compliance officer Vincent Lunny under the former rule 22, which has been superseded by the identical rule 33 in the current list of SFA disciplinary rules.
The rule states: “No club, official, team official or other member of team staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall bet in any way on a football match (except authorized and registered football pools).”
Fraser Wishart, chief executive of the professional players’ union PFA Scotland, represented Black along with one of Glasgow’s leading criminal defence lawyers, Liam O’Donnell.
The hearing began at 1pm and was scheduled to last an hour, but it ended nearly three hours after it had started.
Legal arguments took up most of the time, Black having admitted all the charges laid against him.
O’Donnell said: “I wish to clarify that Ian Black received a censure in respect of betting on 147 games that did not involve his own team.
“He received a ten-match ban in relation to 13 games involving his own team.
“In fairness, the general nature of these bets was relatively small sums on fixed odds coupons and multiple game accumulators.”
Wishart said: “I don’t want to talk about Ian’s own personal situation because it’s been a long hearing, it’s important we take stock, speak to the club, speak to the player and decide what steps [to take] next.”
Rangers released a statement that pointedly did not mention any club action against Black: “Rangers Football Club notes today’s verdict by the judicial panel which has imposed a ten-match ban and £7,500 fine on Ian Black. Three of the matches will be served immediately – meaning the player would miss games against Arbroath, Queen of the South and Forfar – and a further seven games will be suspended until the end of the 2013-14 season. Black would be free to return to action against Stenhousemuir on Saturday, 28 September, 2013.”