The Sun newspaper in the UK today has exposed a betting scandal that for me just smacks of being the consequence of the RFL’s soft stance against betting in the past.
The Sun article, written by Geoff Sweet, is an absolute beauty and is a must read.
It exposes the lackadaisical attitude players within the game have towards, not only betting on their own sport, but betting against their own club to lose games by certain margins. It shows that players in the lower grades of the game see betting as a way to boost their own pay packets and how the Challenge Cup is a major target of these betting activities.
The Sun has quoted Doncaster captain Shaun Leaf throughout their article and the quotes are shocking.
If the claims can all be verified, Leaf should be banned from having any involvement with Rugby League again. That means playing, coaching, being a trainer…I wouldn’t even want him selling pies in the clubs canteen.
In early 2010 I wrote an article about Ex-Oldham assistant coach Mark Cass who only received a 12 month ban for betting against his own club.
Back in 2004 I said that both Sean Long and Martin Gleeson.should have been banned for life for placing bets against their own team to lose a Eastern Monday game against the Bradford Bulls.
St Helens fielded a weakened team against Bradford in preparation for their Challenge Cup Semi Final against Huddersfield the following game. Long didn’t take part in the match…..Gleeson did.
They were each fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £2,205 costs. Long received just a three month ban, Gleeson got a four month ban.
These fines and suspensions were completely pathetic and no sort of deterrent to any other players, coaches or officials looking to place similar bets.
Now, six years on, and with about the greatest undermining of the games integrity at hand, the Rugby Football League have once against come up with a completely inadequate response to a matter that is as serious as it gets.
When the paying public starts to question the integrity of a match, that is it, game over. Knowing that players, coaches and officials can make many thousands of pounds by betting against themselves and potentially changing the result of a match….well, who wants to watch a sport that allows that.
This is going to come back and bite the Rugby Football League in the arse. They have dug their own grave with a ban that in now way shows the seriousness of this matter and does nothing to prevent it from happening again.
Every single fan of this great sport should be completely outraged that the people in charge of protecting our game have failed in their most basic duty.
What we are seeing today in the report by The Sun are the repercussions of the RFL’s failure to impose life bans on these people who have bet on Rugby League.
The Rugby Football League has simply failed to act in its duty to protect the integrity of the game.
The Challenge Cup is a competition with a number of issues. You just had to see the scorelines last weekend, uncompetitive matches, professionals against amateurs, it is a competition that needs an overhaul if it is to remain relevant.
Exposing a betting scandal like this in the Challenge Cup is a crushing blow for not only the competitions credibility, but the credibility of the entire sport in Great Britain.
By now handing out life bans to Long, Gleeson and Cass, the RFL sent a clear message to players. If its worth the gamble that you won’t get caught, it is worth having a gamble on Rugby League.
This is what happens when the games administrators fail to protect the game.
Shaun Leaf is screwed. His club should sack him by lunch time today. They should have nothing more to do with him. The RFL should work with The Sun, betting agencies, and of course, the Police, and allow the laws of the land to be applied to this case.
It just all makes you wonder, how much longer can the games administration in Great Britain be allowed to fail before either changes are made, or the game of Rugby League tips over a precipice it can not return from.
Last but not least, you have to congratulate The Sun and Geoff Sweet in this instance.
I’m critical of much of the Rugby League media in the UK for being soft and just regurgitating what clubs want them too. This is real journalism and should be held as an example of what we need to see more of.
It is not a journalists job to be a cheerleader for the sport, and I have no doubt that same fans in Britain will curse The Sun and Geoff Sweet for exposing this scandal. They will claim this is doing nothing but damage the game.
The damage had already been done, Geoff Sweet just exposed the damage.
So congratulations to The Sun and Geoff Sweet. Lets hope their hard work forces the Rugby Football League to finally protect the game we all know and love.
UPDATE: The Sun has posed pictures on their web site of the bet being placed and Doncaster boss Carl Hall has said the club will investigate, and if the report is found to be true, the player will be sacked. Good news there.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com