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It's time for football chiefs to give betting firms the red card

26th January, 04:59

The Sunday Mail says clubs should severe the umbilical cord between football and gambling even if it means the game's leaders having to find investment from other sources.

"Every street I find a minimum of three bookmakers' shops.

"That's your country. That's your culture.

"If a Portuguese player goes to a bookmaker, I am very worried because our fathers, since we were kids, say to us 'not one coin'.

"Not one single coin in bets, playing cards, casinos. We have this in every family. This is our culture."

It's an old quote. But these words from Jose Mourinho perfectly illustrate the difference in sports betting culture in the UK from just about every other country in the continent.

Mourinho, then manager of Chelsea, made these remarks 15 years ago.

Since then, we haven't become more like his home nation of Portugal. We've hurtled in the other direction with more opportunities to gamble than ever before.

For a new generation of sports fans, watching a football match has become meaningless unless there's a cash bet too.

Whereas horse racing used to be the sport synonymous with having a punt, the beautiful game is, by some distance, where most money is now staked.

Hamilton Accies manager Brian Rice is emblematic of the proximity between our biggest betting firms and our top-tier football clubs.

Rice has been praised for his candour in opening up about his problem but there are still a number of worrying questions arising from this case.

It was well known that Rice had a gambling problem stretching back years. Were any extra safeguards offered to make sure he did not relapse? Was there any monitoring of his betting activity?

In April 2017, the Sunday Mail revealed the case of a Scotland striker who had self-excluded from Ladbrokes such was his problem. But months later that player, who has never been publicly identified, was used to promote the same firm's commercial partnership with the league in which he plays.

Behind the scenes, some betting firms, tired of negative publicity around the game's gambling problems, are looking towards cutting some of these ties.

For our clubs, desperate for investment, this will hardly be welcomed.

Perhaps, though, this voluntary severance of the umbilical cord between football and gambling is what's required. Even if it means the game's leaders having to find investment from other sources.

In the long run, it would mean a healthier sporting environment.

And encourage more young fans to get back to enjoying football for football's sake.

Source