RANGERS goalkeeper Steve Simonsen had been charged with breaching Scottish football’s strict rules against gambling on matches.
With the Ibrox club already reeling from boardroom turmoil it was further rocked last night when the news emerged that the 35-year-old Englishman had become the second Rangers player in just over a year to face such accusations.
Midfielder Ian Black was banned for ten matches, seven of which were suspended, in September 2013 for betting on matches in which he played, and for betting against his own team.
The Scottish Football Association yesterday issued Simonsen with a notice of complaint accusing him of betting on 55 football matches over two separate periods. The first of two charges alleges that Simonsen bet on 18 matches in the 2013-14 campaign, and the second charge relates to 37 games this season.
In the formal language of the Compliance Officer’s department, Simonsen is charged under Disciplinary Rule 33 that applied in season 2013/14 “that between 15th January 2014 and 22nd June 2014, both dates inclusive, you bet upon 18 football matches”.
The second alleged offence is that under Disciplinary Rule 31 which applied in Season 2014/15, “that between 6th September 2014 and 13th January 2015, both dates inclusive, you bet upon 37 matches”.
According to the notice of complaint, Simonsen has until 29 January to respond to the charge.
The SFA has decided that the case will go to “trial” and there has been no offer of a suspension from the Compliance Officer – the usual procedure for offences on the field.
A panel headed by an independent chairman will meet on 12 February for the principal hearing. That should mean Simonsen will be free to play for Rangers when they face Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final on 1 February.
The change in the SFA rule book, which occurred between seasons 2013/2014 and 2014/15, accounts for the different charges.
Disciplinary Rule 33 from season 2013/14 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 authorised and registered football pools).”
Disciplinary Rule 31 for 2014/15 removed all possibilities of gambling including pools: “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 gamble in any way on a football match. Any such club or person to have engaged in gambling of any description on football shall be in breach of this rule.”
For the avoidance of doubt at the time of the Ian Black case, the SFA emphasised that “a football match” meant any match anywhere in the world.
The SFA notice of complaint against Simonsen stressed that there is no evidence of the South Shields-born goalkeeper gambling on any matches he has played in, or in any game featuring Rangers – unlike team-mate Black.
Yesterday’s SFA notice stated: “Please note that there is no evidence to suggest any breach of Disciplinary Rule 32 which states that ‘no club, official, Team Official, other member of Team Staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall knowingly behave in a manner, during or in connection with a match in which the party has participated or has any influence, either direct or indirect, which could give rise to an event in which they or any third party benefits financially through gambling’.”
By emphasising no breach of rule 32, it appears that the SFA is setting out its stall to take a very different attitude to betting on matches featuring their own team and players like Simonsen who bet ‘away’.
Ian Black was accused of gambling on 160 matches over a seven-year period, including betting against his own team on three occasions.
In January 2014, Michael Moffat, then with Ayr United, was found guilty of placing seven bets on six matches involving his own team.
Now at Dunfermline, the striker was also found guilty of placing an additional 150 bets on other games. His six-game ban was cut to four, with two suspended, after an appeal against the penalty.
As happened with Black, there is bound to be considerable speculation as to how the SFA gained its evidence allowing them to charge Simonsen.
Of Danish extraction, the former Dundee and England Under-21 goalkeeper has been a regular for Rangers since first-choice man Cammy Bell injured his shoulder in August.
Last night a spokeswoman for Rangers said: “The club is aware of the SFA’s notice of complaint and is currently investigating the matter.”
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