LONG gone are the days when punters sat in front of their TVs at five o’clock on Saturday evenings to check their pools coupons.
It was a ritual in the Sharrock household where my dad would sit with his Littlewoods check list to see if he had selected the eight draws that would have given him the 24 points required to scoop the jackpot on the treble chance.
He had a few minor wins but never enough to put in a telegram claim, more’s the pity.
Forgive the nostalgia but I can’t help but hark back to the days when life seemed so much simpler and, excuse my naivety, less corrupt.
I make no judgment on the people arrested last week, who have protested their innocence, but the fact there are allegations of irregular betting patterns concerning a sending off in a Scottish Premier League fixture suggest football and the betting industry need to be constantly on the ball.
Not wishing to sound a killjoy, but the proliferation of so-called novelty bets seems to me a recipe for disaster.
I am not so naive as to think there has never been curruption in football.
I have vivid memories of the controversy in 1965 when three Sheffield Wednesday players – Tony Kay, Peter Swann and David Layne – were jailed and banned from football for life for betting on their team to lose a match at Ipswich three years earlier. Seven other players were also jailed for “fixing” lower league games and there have been more recent cases, both at home or abroad.
Stories are legend of players and managers working for clubs abroad where they were told in no uncertain terms that they were expected to “lose” certain matches.
But when it has been possible to bet on the time of the first throw-in or, in cricket, a no-ball being bowled at a certain point in a match, you have conditions which offer the criminal classes heaven-sent opportunities to bring undue influences to bear.
The Gambling Commission is charged with ensuring that betting in this country is carefully regulated and, specifically, its Sports Betting Intelligence Unit collects information and develops intelligence about potentially corrupt activity.
Respectable bookmakers have their own security departments where they are constantly checking for irregularities.
I just fear that when terms such as “spread betting”, “spot betting” and the sinister-sounding “spot-fixing”
are now in common parlance, they will have their work cut out to keep ahead of the game.
The need for vigilance in sports betting has never been greater.