During the late 80’s early 90’s the ARL (NRL) was competing for the Winfield Cup, in a move by Australian parliament the trophy was retired after the 1995 ARL season when cigarette manufacturer Winfield was forced to withdraw their sponsorship of the Premiership, following the Australian Federal Government’s introduction of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 which outlawed tobacco advertising in sports in Australia. The public labelled this as ludacris yet in today’s society it would not even be thinkable to promote such a product.
Today I speak about the issues surrounding sport in terms of match fixing and gambling. It is not uncommon to see the names of betting agencies plastered on the front of some of the worlds most famous sporting jerseys, Real Madrid for one who receive a hefty €16 million annually from bwin.com, UK casino operator Genting Casino has joined with Aston Villa for two consecutive years as the main shirt sponsor of the club. With over 40 casinos in the UK alone they form part of Malaysia’s largest multinational corporation. As history will show Australian marketing, generally shadows the U.S and European firms and may only be a signature away from allowing our teams to promote these agencies alike. Already we see the likes of Tom Waterhouse, TAB, Sportsbet and many more who market their brands superbly. Now the issue is not with the agencies or the teams, it’s much bigger than that.
Gambling in Australia has yielded billions of dollars annually and is continuing to grow. As a 16 year old I watched adds on t.v promoting mobile phones so I went out and purchased one, today Sportsbet are offering money back betting specials, 16 year olds are buying into this. It’s portrayed as a novelty which in a lot of cases it is yet can develop into an addiction.
I write this blog with a touch of hypocrisy as I am an avid supporter of the horse racing industry, I own racehorses and I love the sport, I gamble, and I’m a holder of a Sportsbet account, the issue here is not what people choose to do, it’s what people are led to believe and/or how sports betting is portrayed.
Unfortunately when money is involved people can make decisions that could influence outcomes and be financially rewarding on both ends of the stick. I believe that I was unknowingly part of a fixed game of football, something I remember as if yesterday yet a game in which I would love to forget, it’s not what we as athletes sign up for. As an athlete you start out and develop a passion, when it becomes a job then move on.
For 99.9% of athletes influencing the outcome of a game is not an option, a lifetime of sacrifice and hard work is too much to lose for a short term gain and I’m proud to say that I have not seen nor heard of any suspicious activity in my sporting circle.
As for rugby league, well I find it typical that the media would publicise more stupidities such as banning mobile phones on game day for all players, how ridiculous, I for one would show my support to that with only one gesture, being one finger. Players have 45 minutes to warm up and prepare for a game, do you think the 15,000 people in the stands won’t realise if a star player is missing from the teams preparations, will you ban phones from the stadiums also to prevent last minute information from leaking? Or what about the coverage on television when they announce like they did during the pre game commentary of Newcastle Jets and West Sydney Wanderers that Emile Heskey was a late omission due to back spasms. Impossible to control. Integrity is the word that comes to mind when I think of the match fixing topic and we cannot question the integrity of athletes until found guilty, once or if they are, punishment must be harsh.
Players, clubs, agencies and the general public is not at fault here, it’s the government that is gambling. As they did in 1995 the federal government made a call and it turned out to be beneficial for the good of the game and the Australian people, what’s to stop them in doing the same in 2014?