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NRL, you can’t have it both ways!

Have you heard the about the latest issue to be rocking the NRL world? Today it was announced that David ‘Wolfman’ Williams, from the Manly Sea Eagles, along with another 4 players has been penalised following an investigation by the NRL into gambling on NRL matches.

I must admit I was a little disappointed when I heard the news.

While David Williams will miss the remainder of the season, Ethan Lowe from North Queensland, Cody Nelson from the Gold Coast and Hymel Hunt and Slade Gridden from the Melbourne Storm all received 2 match bans. Williams suspension is the result of him placing multiple bets on games, including games which he played in, whilst the other four players were banned for betting on games which their clubs participated in, but they did not.

I have to be honest, despite this being fairly minor (there was an audit of the betting records of 1500 players, staff and officials), it is still the last thing the NRL needs following the Todd Carney saga from last weekend.

Consistent with their strong stance in respect to behaviour I am proud of the position the NRL has taken. Jim Doyle has announced that penalties for betting on NRL games in the future will be much stricter. The NRL will have a no tolerance package of reforms and gambling on matches will be part of this.

The new rules mean the following:

  • all players will be required to sign a document which states that they completely understand and comply with the NRL’s betting rules;
  • audits of betting records will be conducted on a more regular basis;
  • staff and officials will need to confirm that they understand and comply with the betting rules; and
  • players, staff and officials will face termination or suspension for breaches, no matter how small.

It was also extremely relieving to hear that there was no suggestion of match fixing or inappropriate conduct on the field by those which have been named.

However, despite me being very happy with the stance the NRL has taken, I can’t help but feel that there is some hypocrisy here.

The NRL can’t have it both ways and continue to come down so hard on players when the NRL itself benefits so significantly from its association with gambling companies.

We can consider this on two levels.

Firstly, association with the sport as a whole. The NRL is the only major Australian sporting club without an official betting sponsor (thank goodness!), though the sport still gets 7.5 per cent of its profits through its affiliation with betting companies. Add to this that most clubs have some sort of a sponsorship relationship with a betting agency.

While we appear to be setting a good example in relation to the players, I don’t think we are doing such a good job with the sport as a whole. The NRL needs to make a decision about whether such strong links with gambling are what they want the game to be about.

Parents should not feel like they are taking their kids to a casino when they are at the football. It concerns me that children are able to identify betting agencies simply because they love rugby league. It also troubles me that the involvement of betting agencies continues, despite an increased proliferation of betting scandals – not just in NRL, but in all sports.

By continuing to allow betting agencies to sponsor our teams, we encourage their involvement with our sport.

I remember being particularly troubled when CUA Stadium was renamed Centrebet Stadium while a police investigation continued into the gambling scandal involving Ryan Tandy.

While Tandy was found guilty of match fixing, his death earlier this year was connected to issues he had with gambling. This issue is also so relevant when we consider player welfare.  So despite the NRL coming down hard on players, we still continue as a sport to benefit from our association with betting companies.

At one point in Australian sporting history we thought that the end of tobacco companies being able to sponsor teams would see catastrophic effects. NRL clubs were banned from receiving sponsorship revenue from tobacco companies in 1992 after the Federal Government passed legislation which prevented tobacco advertising in Australia.

Instead of having catastrophic effects, we have seen teams find other sources of revenue and sponsorship of sport continuing to grow.

As a code, we need to get braver about ridding our sport of betting agencies.


Ladies who League

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