Ian Black: The Gambling Man

Ian Black of Rangers has been today given an immediate 3 match ban for breaching gambling regulations. The midfielder has been given a 7 match suspended suspension, which will be enforced if he breaches the rules again this season. Black is the first player to be sentenced under the new betting regulations, but does he really deserve the 10 match ban because of it?

There’s no doubt that Black is guilty – he openly admits putting the bets on over a spell of 7 years during his time with Inverness, Hearts and then Rangers. The bets placed consist of 13 matches including his club at the time, and a further 147 of football games in general.

There can be no doubt that betting upon your team is an absolute no go – what must his team mates think of his backing of his team to be beaten? None of the required hope or belief for them as underdogs? Does he have an ulterior motive in the game? Did he misplace that pass on purpose? The scandal has seriously damaged Black’s credibility in and around the game, and leaves a lot of questions about the midfielder’s commitment to the cause unanswered.

Black had to be made an example of, if the SFA’s thought process was to make an example out of the Rangers man in order to prevent it players backing their opponents at the bookies in the future; they’ve done just that.

And the rules could be no clearer. Despite public backing from current manager Ally McCoist and PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart who both called for clarity on SFA law 23, which prohibits players and officials knowingly acting 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”.

But is the whole business just making a mountain out of a molehill? Take it out of context and focus on the 147 matches and Black is just a Scottish man who likes to put a bet on. Grab your pitchforks…

Even the bets on his own side were (according to Black’s lawyer Liam O’Donnell) “relatively small sums” and fivefold+ coupons. Hardly a shocking story.

And the SFA have clearly adhered to this defence. The 10 match ban has been handed out purely because of Black’s bets on his own team. Only a censure was given out for the other 147 match bets.

From an outsider’s point of view, it’s a complete farce. Having watched Ian Black play that midfield role of getting in people’s faces, winding opposition up and being a scrappy in breaking play up, there can be no doubt that the former Hearts man gives 100% whenever he steps out on the park. He even famously converted a 90th minute penalty at Ibrox in a 1-0 win in 2009 for Inverness, the exact kind of game and during the time period he is accused of betting on.

For another player to breach the SFA’s betting regulations would be absolutely ludicrous. PFA Scotland are calling for “open and frank discussions” when really it just takes a sit down and talk to players. “These are the rules, unfortunately in your line of work, you aren’t allowed to bet – deal with it.”

There need not be any clarification of revamp of regulations and as completely farcical as it is (the thought of Ian Black having Aberdeen to beat Motherwell on his coupon having any influence of that game is farcical) the rules have been set out, and the writing is on the wall for everyone to see.

The ban is severe, and somewhat undeserved, but is in line with the rules. You break the rules, you get punished. You can put your house on that.

Kieran Mullen

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