To all of our supporters and any other interested parties,
Ayr United player Michael Moffat was today charged by the SFA for being in Breach of Disciplinary Rule 33 (No club, official, Team Official or other member of Team Staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall bet in any way on a football match (except authorised and registered football pools)).
The SFA was clear that there is no evidence to suggest any breach of Disciplinary Rule 34 (No club, official, Team Official, other member of Team Staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall knowingly behave in a manner, during or in connection with a match in which the party has participated or has any influence, either direct or indirect, which could give rise to an event in which they or any third party benefits financially through betting.)
I would like to make our supporters and any other interested parties aware of our stance as a club to clear up any confusion. Ayr United will cooperate fully with the SFA and any other governing bodies to comply with all the rules set out by them and will be dealing with this head on in a positive manner.
Michael Moffat will also be cooperating with the authorities fully and he is also eager to comply with the rules. Michael has until the 24th of December to respond to the complaint and he will be informing the league at that point that he will be in attendance at the hearing on January 16th with the appropriate support.
We recognize that gambling is rampant within Scottish Football and needs to be addressed. But, I believe it is very unfortunate that Michael has been singled out because he was “turned in” by someone who contacted the SFA. I have been told that the SFA does not do their own investigations regarding gambling but feel compelled to act when a member of the public etc. brings it to their attention. If that is the stance, it shows me that it is not much of a priority within the SFA. It is worth pointing out that you can sign up for a William Hill online gambling account directly from the SFA Homepage…
No one is suggesting that what Michael did was not against the rules and we are addressing the problem. But, I am saying that if we truly want to deal with the gambling that goes on by the great majority of footballers in our leagues then we need to educate the players and clarify the rules.
The rules, as they are written today say that a player or official etc. cannot bet in any way on a football match. If it ended there, that might be clear (It still wouldn’t solve the perception from most players that gambling is allowed/tolerated). However, the rule goes on to say “except authorised and registered football pools”.
It is this last part that led me to ask while I was at a meeting at Hampden almost four years ago what the betting rules were. I wasn’t clear about it as I wouldn’t even know how to place a bet on the pools nowadays. I was in a room with at least 10 officials from 10 different clubs so I asked for some clarity on the issue. The response was that coupons at the bookies were generally accepted as a replacement for the pools, as the pools were almost out of existence and that a bet of, say, five or ten pounds on an accumulator (coupon) bet was allowed.
Obviously that isn’t true, but astoundingly not one person there disagreed or offered another view. Everyone at that meeting has immediate access to the rulebook at any time but still everyone in attendance believed that betting was acceptable outside the pools. If the people who run the clubs don’t know the rules, how are the players expected to know the rules?
The players know what the rulebook says, but just as the officials assume that betting is okay, the players do as well. It is a completely accepted practice within the dressing rooms of clubs all across this country that gambling on football is acceptable as long as you don’t bet against your own team.
I was interviewed by STV tonight and the presenter tried to compare the Moffat situation to the case this summer involving Ian Black. He suggested that Moff should have known not to bet because of what happened to Ian Black. I pointed out to him that these two cases were not in any way comparable because Michael is not accused of betting against his own team whereas Black was. That part of the interview was the only part edited out, which I find odd, but nevertheless while both players have broken the rules, it is accepted practice within football for players or officials to bet on football as long as there isn’t a bet placed against your team to lose. I’m not saying that is correct thinking, but I am saying it is definitely accepted practice.
So what do we do about Michael? As a club, we back him 100% and any suggestion that we should take our own action and suspend him until after the hearing is just not going to happen. He is available for selection unless we are otherwise told by the SFA.
We make sure he understands the actual rules and not the perceived ones. We did this back when this first started to come to light.
We make sure that the rest of the players, staff and officials are aware and understand the actual rules and not the perceived ones. The players were all sat down this evening at training and had the rule explained clearly so that there wouldn’t be any confusion. We will back Michael 100% because it is my firm belief that any and all of the betting done by him was done without the knowledge that it was wrong and was “normal behaviour”. Going forward, the other players would not have the same luxury if they were ever found guilty of placing a bet in any way on football after today’s date.
We go to the hearing and see what the ruling and punishment will be (if any) and deal with it at the time. It is not for me to suggest what the outcome should be, but I hope it is consistent with previous cases that don’t involve betting against your own team.
We encourage the SFA to be more proactive in getting the message out to the players that gambling is off limits in any capacity. Or, change the rules and make it like many other countries including England where betting is banned on a competition specific basis. In other words, a player playing in the Championship is allowed to bet on matches taking place outside the Championship. Whatever the decision, it is vitally important that the message comes out clearly from them. We as a club enjoy working with the SFA and recognize that they are continually attempting to improve the game in Scotland and we are willing and able to help with that.
We encourage the PFA to do the same. Get the message out. The first time in Mark Robert’s 20 plus years in the game that the PFA have brought up gambling in a meeting where he has been involved in was just a few weeks ago. Usually, it is about banned substances etc. That tells me that it hasn’t historically been a priority and wasn’t recognized as a problem. If the rules remain the same, the culture must change and anyone who has been a part of a large organization knows that culture is the most difficult thing to change.
We as a club need to make the players aware of the rules and that they aren’t just there for the sake of it. Current accepted practice is against the rules and players breaking those rules will be punished accordingly. I’m definitely guilty of standing by knowing full well that there was gambling going on at the bookies or online, however, I was under the same impression that everyone else seems to be that it’s okay as long as it wasn’t against your own team and it didn’t involve more than small sums of money. So, charge me and charge every other chairman and then most directors and then the vast majority of players, but please don’t single players out on the basis that someone dobbed them in. Do it the correct way. Recognize the problem and start the education process.
Ayr United F.C.