Regulations, regulations, regulations…! They’re everywhere these days aren’t they? Professional sport is certainly no exception and the latest thing is major restrictions on players’ gambling. Is this going too far? Is this just too restrictive? We take a look….
Did you hear about all that business with a footballer in the UK being fined for gambling on the game? Joey Barton was not only fined £30K but was also banned for 18 months. The midfielder for Burnley was even warned about his future in the beautiful game!
It’s all part of the FA’s clamp-down on gambling on the sport by players or anyone involved. The regulations came in in 2014 and even include club staff. It’s not just the results of games either that are off limits but anything at all to do with professional football including team selection and transfers.
Now this all sounds pretty extreme, but is it necessary? We know it’s easy for a sport to become corrupt- it only takes a few bad eggs to set the whole thing in motion and then before you know it everything has escalated and it is impossible to stop. Imagine this scenario for a moment: a top player bets against his own team and intentionally plays badly to win big. Then he starts pressuring his team mates to play badly too so they can all profit by it. Once a few start doing it there is a divide in the club: those who participate and those who refuse. After a time the gap widens and those who resist become ostracised. Maybe one or two of the staff find out and are bound to secrecy but end up participating too. Finally it’s happening all the time and everyone knows about it but nobody can shift the situation. And what’s more, it’s not just in one club but numerous clubs within the league. Ultimately the whole essence of good sportsmanship is lost and the game destroyed by corruption.
When you think about it all these regulations suddenly start to seem quite sensible, don’t they? It’s not as if no gambling can be done at all by players. In fact the burgeoning online gaming industry and the traditional casino scene offer plentiful alternatives. Classic table games such as poker and blackjack are by no means unavailable to professional athletes. Indeed online slots and the thrills of roulette are the perfect way for athletes with their highly competitive natures to unwind when not playing or training.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan is a perfect example of the way that these go hand in hand. Stories abound of his prowess on the court and his amazing ability with a basketball, but less well publicized are his exploits on the links. Jordan has a penchant for high stakes golf and is said to have once taken a put for $300 000. (There’s more on this here if your jaw has just dropped and you want to know more!)
So what conclusions should we draw from all this? Well whilst it’s true that some of these regulations within professional sport can seem excessive at times, maintaining the integrity of a game, both for players and spectators should always be the priority. And given that they’re not so invasive as to stop these fabulously remunerated players from living it up in style, we probably shouldn’t feel too sorry for them!