Sutton united’s Wayne Shaw has completed his rise and fall in a remarkable 24 hours and, presumably like most pies available at conference level, it leaves one sick to their stomach. What should be remembered as the biggest night of these players and their club’s history, coming up against the most consistent top four and champions league first round knockout runners up in the modern era has descended into a sad story of a man loosing his job.
Lets get it clear betting rules are there for a reason. It protects the sanctimony of the game and leaves us in no doubt that games are played in as honest a manner as possible. There is countless stories of players (mainly lower league) being offered money to help throw games and receive red and yellow cards. In 2013 Sam Sodje, formerly of Reading, was caught by undercover reporters admitting that he had thrown games before and could influence others to do so again. These actions leave football fans disillusioned with the game and these actions deserve all the sanctions and bans they get.
The thing is Shaw’s actions, although crude and clearly misjudged, have no influence over the game at hand and therefore should be taken at face value. Sutton manager Paul Doswell has spoken today of how Shaw was in tears upon having been told that he was to be relieved of his goalkeeping coach duties. As mentioned above to bet upon a game you are involved in or can influence deserves strong and severe punishment, but this is a pie we are talking about.
Apart from the human side with Shaw’s heartache, what struck me about this whole story was the sheer hypocrisy. The Gambling commission’s spokesmen Richard Watson was quoted as such, “Integrity in sport is not a joke and we have opened an investigation to establish exactly what happened”. Two things about this statement, One, integrity in sport is much more prevalent than integrity in the betting industry (if it even exists), and two, on the website that I visited to garner this quote was several betting promotions for matches taking place tomorrow night. Seeing as though football, and all sport, is increasingly becoming more a platform for gambling than individual or collective greatness I find it deplorable that anyone involved in the industry talks about “Integrity”.
I gamble. I have since I was the legal age to do so and I don’t think this whole situation will stop me from wasting more of my money on nonsensical accumulators and other outlandish bets nor will it stop anyone, but it at least should be raised that gambling and its ever increasing addiction is becoming a huge problem.Before, during and after every single game we are bombarded by exclusive offers from an increasing number of sites.We are shown these offers through adverts on the sides of pitches, in our papers and on our phones. There is not a 10 minute period whereupon we cannot, if we choose, bet obscene money on the next goalscorer, the next corner or throw in etc. To anyone who can control their urge or laugh at the improbable odds due to the ever lasting uncertainty of football, this is not an issue, but to an addict, to someone under the hold of the illusion of a quick fix to their money problems its akin to buying rounds for an alcoholic. Walking down the street you can distinct between a drug addict, an alcoholic and numerous other addicts, you will never spot the gambler. He can, at the touch of a button, bet his entire weeks wage on the next goal kick in a Ukrainian under 19 women’s game, and apart from some very easily beaten controls the betting site will not intervene as long as he looses, and he will. The house ALWAYS wins.
It would be fanciful to suggest that anything will be done to stem this increasing problem.Top level football simply makes to much money to give a rat’s arse. In a 2010 study it was shown that 1%/2% of gamblers are shown to be “problem gamblers”, around 355,000- 710,000 people. It was also shown that this small group generated between 30%-60% of the betting industries revenues. Gambling addicts can easily find themselves in a whole with no foreseeable path back to redemption and it often leads to the unthinkable. These stats are from nearly seven years ago and in that time it is impossible that the problem has minimised due to the ever growing exposure.
Gambling addiction is a huge problem and the press that Sun-bets and other such sites have, and will, make from football will only further add to the problem. The sad thing is that Wayne Shaw has lost a job he presumably loved and all the while its the betting sites that make off like bandits. Football is what we love because of people like Shaw, hoovering the dugout looking like his jersey was 5 sizes to small, his smile and joy at being in selfies with fans, it makes your heart warm to see what joy the FA cup has brought to Sutton United. Whatever money Shaw or his mates made from his pie eating is a dam site better off in their hands than in the hands of the betting sites. No doubt they made double it today.