Scottish football and gambling - an essential or dangerous alliance?

Ladbrokes trophy tour
Ladbrokes has extended its sponsorship deal of the SPFL for another season

The imposition of an 18-month playing ban for Burnley's Joey Barton for betting on matches has brought into focus football's reliance on sponsorship money from gambling companies.

The Scottish Professional Football League's four tiers, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup are all sponsored by betting companies, who have also invested in the shirt sponsorship of clubs such as Rangers and Celtic and in the naming rights for the main stand at Hampden.

On Thursday, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster praised Ladbrokes for being "a terrific and supportive lead sponsor" for the past two seasons and said his organisation was "thrilled to extend the partnership for next season", saying it was "another clear message of confidence in Scottish football".

BBC Scotland has spoken to former players, the players' union representative, a betting industry expert, a fans' spokesperson and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers to gather a range of views on Scottish football's bonds with gambling.

Kevin Twaddle, former player who was addicted to gambling

Kevin Twaddle
In his book "Life on the Line", Kevin Twaddle revealed that he spent more than £1m on gambling

"There are more and more high-profile footballers seeking help from gambling addiction.

"A long time ago, I got myself in a lot of bother. It pretty much ruined my football career. It came to a head in 2004, where I tried to commit suicide.

"I'm so fortunate that I don't play football now, where you can bet on first corner, first shy, getting sent off.

"I'd have been doing the lot because I was that engrossed in gambling, totally addicted. Online doesn't help. It's an epidemic, gambling just now.

"I think Joey Barton has been made a bit of a scapegoat. If you went through all the divisions in Scottish football to see how many people are gambling, you wouldn't have football.

"It's so widespread, especially in younger people. It really is a shame because people don't understand the harm and the hurt it causes to them and the families round about them. It's destructive.

"There should be less advertising. It's not like when I played; football is a gambling industry now."

Former striker Tam McManus - bet against his own team

Tam McManus
Tam McManus says "it didn't feel right" to bet against his own team

"I liked a bet and I liked a bet on football.

"I've backed against my team once. I wasn't playing in the game. I was at Derry City in 2009 and we had three games in six days, Friday in the League, Monday in the League Cup and Thursday in the Europa League.

"On the Monday, Stephen Kenny rested all the players and played the under-19s in the League Cup - the two big games were the league and the Europa League. I bet against my own team.

"We lost the game, I won my bet and I never did it again. It didn't feel right. But that's not match fixing - that's having inside information."

John Rankin, Queen of the South captain and chairman of PFA Scotland

John Rankin battles for the ball with St Mirren's Kyle Magennis
John Rankin says gambling is part of the football culture in Scotland

"It's not just players who are gambling. Managers, referees, directors, chairmen, they've all got inside knowledge.

"Are you telling me they don't have betting accounts? I would suggest they have. When you're Scottish and go to football, from an early age, your father will take you and you stop at two places on the way to the game - the pub and the bookies. That's our culture.

"We've imposed bans and that's not stopping it. There must be another solution.

"Betting companies do a good service to the Scottish game with their financial input, but to ask players not to bet but be standing in a picture beside Ladbrokes and William Hill, that's where the conflict becomes difficult with regards to the players.

"But where would we be in Scottish football without these companies? We would be struggling.

"We're crying out for investment and they've backed us for years. There's a responsibility among all the players, managers, staff, the lot, not to get involved in gambling.

"It's rife, we're not hiding away from it. The majority are probably still doing it.

"You don't just walk into a betting shop now to put a bet on, you don't just have your own account; there are mates, everyone has access to the internet.

"Certain players have been an example of, but there is support for players through the RCA Trust, which is a counselling programme through the PFA.

"But it's a culture and, if we can't stop them with these rules, there must be something else we can come up with to stop gambling in the competitions we're competing in."

Betting industry expert Scott Longley

William Hill sponsors the Scottish Cup and the south stand at Hampden
Betting company William Hill sponsors the Scottish Cup and the south stand at Hampden Park

"A lot of clubs further down the leagues wouldn't be able to survive without the money that was coming to them via these sponsorships deals, whether that be shirt sponsorships or betting partnerships.

"Players betting on football is a contentious issues. With Joey Barton's case you have to question whether or not there is any actual corruption there - I don't think there is - and I think he has been unfairly castigated.

"There is the need for more money in Scottish football from sponsors and the most obvious source is coming from the betting companies.

"The betting companies see sponsorship of football as a very valuable asset to them in terms of marketing and they are keen to be associated with sport.

"The question of corruption with regard to betting is a very serious matter, but it should be separated from the sponsorship issue.

"I don't think there is a moral issue around gambling - it is fully legal in this country.

"There isn't a huge body of companies willing to sponsor football.

"To try to strip out betting from football would be hugely economically disadvantageous.

"I don't think football is alone in having people who are vulnerable when it comes to gambling."

Scottish Football Supporters Association co-founder Paul Goodwin

Paul Goodwin
Paul Goodwin wants those running Scottish football to try harder to find alternative sponsors

"There's nothing wrong with a flutter and lots of football fans obviously do.

"But I think, somewhere in between, there needs to be some kind of checks and balances.

"We don't want Scottish football sleep-walking into another controversial area.

"If you really tried hard with all the various betting companies that support Scottish football, you could have £200-worth of free bets.

"That's a fairly big encouragement for people who maybe don't bet or don't have accounts to open up accounts - potentially, it's a slippery slope.

"It's a dangerous precedent that we have is that we're loaded with these sponsorships and we need to have a platform in place that allows Scottish football to move forward and to make sure that all the difficulty that comes with those relationships are in balance."

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers says it is important that players and staff at clubs seek help

"It's personal responsibility. You have a choice. You don't have to do it - no-one's asking anyone to go and gamble.

"It's (down to) education and training of young players and people within who are suffering.

"We need to try and help them and educate them and train them. I think what is key for players, and staff, is to lift the burden and speak about it.

"For men, it can be deemed a weakness to talk about it. It's not, it's anything but.

"But gambling, it's personal responsibility. If you choose to do that then there's a consequence to that."

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