GAMBLING has been big business since man first became gripped by the idea of making gain by predicting an outcome. Some argue that it dates from the casting of lots by Roman guards at the Crucifixion.
The practice is one of mankind’s oldest pursuits and many have tried to ban or regulate it. From ancient Rome, to Islam and Buddhism, attempts have been made to prevent gambling or at least control it. If they had any effect, their success was relatively short-lived.
This has not put off the Scottish Football Association. News emerges from Partick Thistle Football Club that one of their players, Steven Lawless, is expected to be charged with allegedly breaching the governing body’s gambling regulations. If confirmed, Lawless will be the fourth player to be charged under the SFA’s “zero tolerance” policy on betting on any match, anywhere in the world.
It’s a hard line for the SFA to hold. Today, gambling is more popular than ever. Anyone who has watched a live football match on satellite television recently will know the script very well. Before and during the match, the viewer is pummelled by wall-to-wall gambling adverts. Bet on the outcome. Bet on the score. Bet on the first goal. Bet on the margin. Bet with a goal start. But most important of all, bet now.
Attitudes to gambling have softened over the years. What was once a sin was then treated with a sense of forgiveness when placing a bet was considered a sign of weakness rather than evil. Today, it is considered a form of entertainment. However, sticking a couple of quid on the Grand National seems like the age of innocence compared to what the gambling industry has grown into today.
The internet has revolutionised gambling. Walking into a betting shop carries the stigma of being at best a misguided dreamer, and at worst a hopeless addict. The internet takes all of that away. Bets can be placed at home, at work or even on the bus, without anyone else knowing. The advent of betting with privacy has opened up a whole new market.
Sport’s attempts to regulate betting are usually intended to counter corruption and match-rigging, but it is impossible to legislate this global phenomenon across continents. Efforts would be better focused on investigating match-fixing.
The SFA should accept that gambling on football matches by players is rife in the game; it happens across the world, and it happens here too. The Saturday football coupon is not a threat to sporting integrity.
There is a world of difference between a player betting on an event he is involved in, and can influence, and taking a punt on Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid when he watches the big game on TV later that night. The SFA should recognise the distinction, and accept the reality.
Teach children the horror of war
SEVENTY years ago today, Britain celebrated VE Day to mark the end of the war in Europe that claimed the lives of 40 million people.
The scale of losses is unimaginable today, as is the depth to which inhumanity plunged.
At the end of six years of hell, the British public would have been forgiven for settling for blessed relief rather than starting a party. They had lived through years of Hitler’s forces sitting just across the water, with invasion and its appalling consequences a very real prospect in daily life.
But party they did, as they rejoiced at Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender.
And for many of those people, it was the end of their second world war. Brutal conflict, devastating loss and constant fear left them terrified and traumatised, and defined their lives.
Although only the elderly can provide first-hand witness 70 years later, their children can tell the story that should act as a deterrent to any prospect of a further conflict that involves such grotesque levels of casualties.
In that respect, knowing what it did to our parents means the war remains within our lifetimes.
We have a duty to pass on this lesson to the next generation, who cannot be blamed for having little interest or knowledge of the Second World War. It did not touch them, but it is our responsibility to educate them about its consequences.
The 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe comes amid a raft of such commemorations. Every one of them is worth it, as a reminder. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.