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Hamilton chief executive calls for football gambling amnesty

The Hamilton chairman has called for a gambling amnesty in Scottish football.

Brian Rice: Admitted gambling struggle.
Brian Rice: Admitted gambling struggle.

The chief executive of Hamilton Accies says football is rife with gambling addicts at the highest level and the SPFL should create an amnesty programme to get them help and clean up the game.

Colin McGowan made the claims as the club’s manager Brian Rice admitted a series of gambling breaches that led to him receiving a notice of complaint from the SFA.

McGowan will now write to the football association to propose the introduction of a gambling amnesty that will “enable people to confront their addiction in a safe and non-judgemental environment”.

Rice is the latest in a long line of Scottish football figures to have opened up on their gambling woes after the Hamilton head coach “self reported” himself to the game’s governing body.

In a statement the 56-year-old admitted he was a gambling addict.

He said: “This decision was one of the hardest I have had to take but in a way also the easiest. I have made no secret of the fact that I have struggled with the disease that is gambling addiction in the past.

“The reality is I am an addict and while I have been proud of the fact I have been in recovery from this disease, a key part of the recovery programme is honesty.”

In the past, every corner of the Scottish game, from Celtic and Rangers to League 2 side Elgin City, have all fallen fowl to the issue.

Former Celtic midfielder Paul Byrne has previously opened up on his addiction struggles that he believes played a part in his career not reaching the heights he had hoped.

The Dubliner played for the Hoops between 1993 and 1995 and scored two memorable Old Firm goals during an unsuccessful spell in Glasgow.

It was reported at the time that Byrne had lost a lot of money betting against Celtic in a 1-1 draw in which he scored the equaliser.

More recently Rangers player Ian Black was given a ten-match ban and fined £7500 after admitting breaching gambling laws in 2013.

The then 28-year-old was accused of gambling on 160 matches over a seven-year period, including betting against his own team on three occasions.

And at the end of last year Elgin City striker Kane Hester was charged after allegedly being involved in suspicious gambling patterns.

The 24-year-old was one of four men charged by police over the incidents reported to have taken place in Montrose.

Former Celtic hero John Hartson has also revealed how he would regularly lose tens of thousands of pounds a week at the height of his addiction.

The Welsh forward, who scored more than 100 goals for Celtic, faced up to his demons in 2011 by attending gamblers anonymous in Swansea.

And former Rangers midfielder Joey Barton was banned from playing for 18 months by the English FA after a series of bets placed between 2006 and 2013.

McGowan believes the admission from Rice can be a “seminal moment” for football in Scotland.

In a statement released through the club he said: “As a club, we are proud of the work undertaken to support the local community.

“Today, we support our head coach and we feel certain that the community will get fully behind him. We also believe Brian’s public admission today can be hugely significant in helping the lives of other coaches and players who can relate to his addiction and other addictions.

“It is my intention to write to my colleagues at the SPFL to table a proposal to the Scottish FA’s Professional Game Board for the introduction of a gambling amnesty in our game: one that will enable people to confront their addiction in a safe and non-judgemental environment, with help and support readily available.

“Brian’s courage today can be a seminal moment for Scottish football.”

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