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Lower Leagues Face Gambling Problem

The Independent features an interview with lower-league player Andy Mangan, who was banned for five months in 2009 for betting on the outcome of a match that he was involved in.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to copy and paste the interview! I’m sure you’re all clever enough to go and find it for yourselves! But I am going to highlight some of the quite worrying remarks that Mangan had to say about gambling culture amongst lower league players.

Mangan bet £1,500 on the result of a match between Accrington Stanley and Bury, whilst he was at Bury. This directly broke FA Rule E8 which stipulates that players may not place bets on any competition in which they take part. Mangan was banned for 5 months along with players Peter Cavanagh, David Mannix, Robert Williams and Jay Harris.

Despite the punishment he and others have received, Mangan believes that nothing has changed in the lower divisions. He told The Independent, ‘I know for a fact players are gambling on their own league when you are not allowed.’ This is a worrying sign, both for football fans and the FA, as players involved in gambling are the natural targets of criminal gangs involved in match fixing.

Mangan believes that the high wages of the Premier League are to blame for the gambling problem currently gripping the smaller clubs. In a bid to match the lifestyle enjoyed by players at the top level of the game, young players in the lower divisions take extra risks to turn their £800 a week salary into a figure two or three times that amount.

Mangan himself cites this as the reason why he took to betting on match outcomes in the first place, and feels that the FA needs to do more to ensure young players are not drawn down the wrong path by the lure of such riches.

Now at Wrexham, Mangan was lucky. Before his ban, his goal-scoring exploits had earned him a reputation in the lower divisions, so there were a number of clubs willing to take him on when he was reinstated. Now, he’s been called up to the England C Squad, by coach Paul Fairclough. He knows how lucky he is to be there, and how it could so easily have been different.

‘Some lads just think it’s nothing. You’re 20, 21, you think you’re going to win, you have a bet, you win and you’re drawn in, because you are only young.’

Now, this article doesn’t have any answers. And to be fair, I’m not in any position to advise the FA on how to go about policing this. But as we saw in the recent Pakistan Cricket team’s match-fixing scandal, the result of a harmless flutter can have grave consequences for young player’s careers. Gambling culture is a part of the banter at alot of football clubs, particuarly lower down the divisions but if it continues to spiral out of control, we could see many young players lose their prospects of a career for the sake of a few hundred quid. I thought people got into the game becuase they loved playing football, not because they wanted to buy the latest sports car? Or am I just being naive?

Mangan has apparently approached the PFA to offer himself as a lesson for other players coming through, and to go to clubs to deliver lectures on the dangers of illegal gambling, but so far the organisation has yet to take him up on his offer.

What do you think? Do you think it’s fair that players are banned for a casual flutter? What would you like to see happen? The comment box awaits!

Follow Peter Turner on Twitter @petermagpie

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