Ian Black: PFA calls for player betting review

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart says he believes players in this country need to be educated about gambling as he confirmed plans to write to the Scottish Football Association to request a review of their rules on betting.

Ian Black in action for Rangers in a pre-season clash with Elgin. Picture: SNS

A zero tolerance approach is in force in Scotland, which restricts players from staking money on any football matches anywhere in the world.

The issue has dominated headlines this week after Rangers midfielder Ian Black was hit with an SFA charge involving 160 alleged breaches of rules on gambling stretching back more than seven years.

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“I think, in general, footballers just need to be a bit more aware of the regulations,” said Wishart. “We’ll certainly be writing to the SFA to ask for a review and it’s important that we do it quite quickly and at this time.

“Now’s the time to make a real effort to review the rules in Scotland. We’ve got players who perhaps have put on an accumulator but technically they are breaching rules.

“Is it appropriate to deal with them in the same manner as somebody who has a serious problem? Is it working? Is it workable? What I mean by that is can the governing body actually police the rules?

“We have to have a proper review of the rules because it affects everybody in Scottish football.”

PFA Scotland is part of the SFA’s Rule Revision Group and it is understood that there were no requests for changes to the current rules at the last meeting in March.

An SFA spokesman said: “We speak with PFA Scotland on a regular basis as part of the Rule Revision Group and as part of our general relationship.

“We understand that their position might change going forward and we are happy to discuss the position of all our stakeholders as part of our annual Rule Revision process.”

Meanwhile, Wishart has urged any players who may have gambling issues to seek help. He added: “Any player that needs help should just come forward and speak to us and we’ll pass them on to the relative confidential counsel service. From then on, it’s between them and the counsellors.

“As a professional football player, it’s very important to have that anonymity, because stories can appear in newspapers and online and internet forums and everywhere, and it can really affect your life and your family.

“We have that confidentiality and anybody that needs a wee bit of help, a bit of support and somebody to talk to, we’d be more than happy to speak to them and make sure they get the best possible support.”

Wishart stressed that gambling addiction is not necessarily a problem in the Scottish game. He said: “We have to be very careful. One slight problem and one slight betting culture can create the image of something sinister and I think it’s far from it. Do players enjoy a punt, a gamble, a bet on football? Yeah, I’m sure they do, quite a number of them. But we have to differentiate between perhaps £5 on a ten-team accumulator on fixed odds and the other end of the scale where we do have one or two players who have serious gambling issues.

“It’s important just now that we stay rational and we don’t involve ourselves in too much hyperbole.”