It is currently a dark time for non league football. Players are in the dock for spot fixing in matches, and now we also have three players from one club facing lengthy suspensions for betting infractions.
So far this season, we’ve lost a club in Hinckley United, almost lost others (Kettering Town and Eastwood Town spring to mind) and had other dramas on and off the pitch, including flares and goals that were and weren’t. Now we have to face up to the horrible fact that corruption seems to be an ever increasingly prominent presence in our wonderful semi professional game.
Two players from Conference South club Whitehawk appeared in court last week after being accused of taking part in a conspiracy to defraud bookmakers. Michael Boateng and Hakeem Adelakun, both 22, have been bailed and will stand trial next May, along with the two men alleged to have facilitated events. Both Boateng and Adelakun have subsequently been sacked by Whitehawk FC. Similarly, a player from Staines Town was offered the chance to earn some money from spot fixing, but he turned it down and reported it to his manager Marcus Gayle.
The problem with match fixing is finding someone to do it. It’s unlikely that a player in the professional game could be tempted to take a bribe due to the high wages now being paid. Maybe non league players are seen as an easy target for the syndicates involved? After all, they are hardly going to be able to give up working when they give up playing. If the figures reported are to be believed, as much as seventy thousand pounds has been offered just for a player to pick up a red card! That sort of money would be hard for most people to turn down, and it’s not as if you’re being asked to score an own goal in an attempt to lose a match. It’s a bad tackle, or screaming obscenities at the ref.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not condoning any form of spot fixing or corruption. Far from it. Instead, I am trying to get things straight in my own head, and maybe understand why a player would do it.
Footballers Betting on Football
And if spot fixing wasn’t bad enough, three players from AFC Hayes are now facing lengthy bans for betting irregularities. Lawrence Shennan, Ben Goode and Chevy Hart – who is no longer with the club – have been found guilty of breaching the Football Association’s betting laws. Players are not allowed to place bets on their own team, or any competition in which their team is competing. Shennan has received a two year ban and been fined £580.20 (which includes £330.20 profit from said bets), Goode has been suspended for one year and fined £606.42 (£456.42 of which is profit), and Hart received four months with a fine of £145.65, of which £45.65 is the profit gained.
The trio seem to have been unaware of the FA’s rules on betting, with Hart claiming on twitter that no advice or guidelines are given to non league players regarding betting, a claim that has been backed up by other players. It does seem a harsh punishment. Spot fixing is one thing, but betting on your team winning; how is that corrupt? Assumedly, these players placed their bets with an online bookie, and that’s how they’ve been caught. After all, you don’t give your details over the counter in a bookie’s do you? How many other players are doing the exact same thing in person and not getting “caught”?
As for the punishment, does it really fit the crime? Breaking someone’s leg or being racially abusive, for example, carries a ban of between one and ten games going by past sanctions. But betting on a match is somehow worthy of a two year ban?!? In fairness, the bans have not kicked in yet. Instead, they have been carried forward until the two AFC Hayes players receive written reasons for their bans. They will then decide, along with their club, what action to take next in terms of appealing the frankly quite draconian sanctions.
Unfortunately, I can only see more stories coming out in the future weeks, months and probably years, as this will surely only be the tip of the iceberg.