Niall McNamee has welcomed the GAA’s motion to penalise players, management and officials betting on games in which they are involved.
However, he is dubious about how the organisation can police it.
The proposal, which is expected to be strongly endorsed at Congress on Saturday, reads: “A player, team, a member of a team management or a referee involved in a game is strictly prohibited from betting on the outcome of any aspect of the game concerned.”
The penalty is a misconduct considered to have discredited the association and, for an individual, ranges from a minimum of eight weeks to an expulsion.
The GAA have been liaising with the Irish Bookmakers Association and betting companies in an effort to detect such practices.
While Offaly forward McNamee — who has battled gambling addiction — believes it will be a beneficial rule in the long run, he questions how successful they will be.
“I think it’s a good thing. It will make people more aware of the dangers that are there with gambling. In terms of how it’s going to be policed, I’m not sure how it will be. Among the current generation of players, a lot of guys do it and they’re not going to change and there are ways around it, but for future generations it can be a good thing [to have the rule in place] and may prevent a few going down that road.
“If I put my gambling hat on for a minute and go back to that situation, I never really gambled on GAA, but if I wanted to do it now it would be very easy to go to a friend of mine or go to a relative and ask them to put the bet on for me and get the money back off them. That’s obviously where the difficulty lies. I think this is the case across Ireland and not only the GAA. I just feel like it may have gone too far in a lot of areas and, for a couple of generations, gambling is so entrenched in people’s lives and it’s just going to stay there, but this is a step in the right direction for future generations.”
McNamee, who should be available for Offaly to face Louth in Division 3 this Sunday, is more concerned with how GAA members who are proven to have broken the would-be rule might be ostracised by their peers. He believes the association will have to put a support structure in place to ensure their future mental well-being.
“It’s easy to make rules, but, at the end of the day, we’re all human. That would be a big fear of mine: If someone is caught or suspended for doing something like this and they’re hung out to dry.
“From a team-mates’ point of view or management’s or club point of view, they might say ‘we don’t want anything more to do with you’ and that’s going to put them down a worse road than they’re already on. There is always a reason behind these things. If someone is gambling on their own team or a game in which they’re playing, they’re doing it for a reason. It can be financial and they believe this is the way they’re going to get all their money back or they’re not in a good place, emotionally, and they’re looking for some kind of an escape.
“For them, a knowledge of GAA and the games they play can be an added advantage to that escape. A player will be left to their own devices if they break a rule, but with all the talk of emotional well-being in society at the moment there definitely needs to be protocol put in place for a player who gets mixed up in that.
“It’s difficult, because there are over 2,300 clubs in Ireland and there are players with problems in a lot of those clubs, so I have no idea how they’re going to go about putting a system in place to ensure they have support. I know county players have that support, but that isn’t currently available to club players.”
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