RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has admitted he is baffled by the Scottish FA’s notice of complaint against midfielder Ian Black for 160 alleged breaches of their rule against betting on matches.
Despite the ongoing SFA case and Rangers’ own internal investigation into the matter, McCoist is giving his full support to Black by including him in his squad for tonight’s League One fixture against Airdrieonians at the Excelsior Stadium.
McCoist has conceded his own ignorance of the SFA “zero tolerance” regulations on gambling, which PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart believes should be reviewed, and refused to comment on the three specific instances when Black is alleged to have wagered against his own team.
But, at his pre-match media conference at Murray Park yesterday, McCoist brandished a handful of A4 paper which he said contained a hastily and easily compiled list of more than 100 players and officials in Scotland who regularly gamble on football.
He is bemused both that Black has been singled out and at the timing of the SFA charge, which relates to bets struck by the former Inverness and Hearts player stretching back to 2006.
“That’s a question for you to ask,” said McCoist. “I’ve tried to phone one of the directors at Ladbrokes and I’ve no doubt I’ll get a chance to speak to him. But, if you are asking me why it wasn’t done after his first bet in 2006, I don’t know the answer to that. This here is a list of people involved in the game who all stick coupons on and have an honest football bet. Our lads gave me this list in about ten minutes. I’m not going to start naming names on it but all I’m saying is that we all need to sit down – the SFA, PFA Scotland, Ladbrokes and whoever – and get the whole thing sorted out.
“To be honest, I’m not aware of the exact rules because I haven’t studied them. If it’s in the rules, it’s in the rules but not enough people know them and I include myself in that. Let’s try to resolve the matter. Surely nobody here is naive enough to think this is a one-off situation. I wouldn’t comment on where my list came from. I would
certainly not threaten anyone. All I’m trying to say is: ‘Come on, let’s be sensible about the whole thing’.
“The fact that one of our game’s main sponsors is William Hill would indicate that we would at least need to sit down and get clarification on a few issues.”
But the SFA’s response to McCoist’s comment made it plain that they consider their regulation on gambling to be perfectly clear as it is.
“The rule contained within the Judicial Panel Protocol, provided to all clubs, states no player or official under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA can bet in any way on a football match,” said an SFA spokesperson. “If he [McCoist] wants any explanation on the rules, he can just pick up the phone.”
The SFA has stated there is no evidence to suggest Black acted in a manner, either directly or indirectly, that led to himself or a third party benefitting financially through betting. Black has until 26 August to respond to the complaint, with a Hampden hearing set for 12 September.
Asked specifically about the allegations Black placed bets on his own team to lose, McCoist replied: “I know it’s in the hands of his lawyer and the PFA Scotland lawyer so I can’t comment on it.”
Pressed for details of Rangers’ own inquiry, he said: “The investigation is ongoing. That’s all I can say on that as well.”
Black has started the season well for Rangers, scoring twice in their first four matches, after an indifferent debut campaign at the club. McCoist says the 28-year-old’s mindset has not been adversely affected by this week’s controversy and insists it will not influence his selection policy.
“It’s business as usual and Ian is in my plans for Airdrie,” said McCoist. “He’s absolutely fine. He’s trained the last couple of days and I’ve actually been delighted with his form since the start of the season. Hopefully that will continue.
“I’m very hopeful Ian will continue his really good form. Make no mistake about it, a lot of people have been scrutinising him after last season but I felt there were one or two reasons for that.
“He came to us just after a double hernia operation and didn’t get a proper pre-season. I think he’s now fit, he’s got pre-season training under his belt and I think one or two of the better players we’ve brought in have helped him.”
McCoist, who confirmed he is keen to pursue his interest in English goalkeeper Steve Simonsen and Irish midfielder Sam Kelly, who are currently on trial at Murray Park, was also asked about yet another week of boardroom drama at Rangers with the departure of the former chief executive Charles Green from his briefly-held consultancy role.
“That’s a board matter and they have made their decision,” said McCoist. “Obviously I stick by anything the board does and that will always be the case.
“I think we are all bored by it to a certain degree and I just need to concentrate on the football. It’s up to the boys upstairs on the board to get themselves sorted out, my job is to get a winning team on the park and that’s all I want to be concerned with in the future.
“You just have to handle whatever is thrown at you.
“Every day brings something different. It doesn’t wear me down, not at all. It’s my job. I enjoy my job. I enjoy it most when I’m at the training ground or watching my team, but I understand everything else is part and parcel of it.”