THE vote at the recent annual GAA Congress to ban all sponsorship by betting companies is a welcome and praiseworthy development. The fact that 93% of the delegates who voted backed the motion brought forward by Connacht GAA, ‘that sponsorship by a betting company of any competition, team, playing gear or facility be prohibited,’ illustrated the depth of feeling there is in Gaelic games circles about the issue of gambling.
The delegate who proposed the motion, Mick Rock, argued that sport in general is ‘besieged by gambling’ and, indeed, this is very evident in the amount of betting companies sponsoring English soccer teams as well as television coverage of sports events. He maintains that passing the motion ‘will enhance the moral standing of the GAA in Irish life and protect the integrity of our games.’
Former Armagh footballer Óisín McConville, who has been active in the media for a number of years, speaking candidly about his gambling addiction, was delighted that passing the motion sees the GAA ‘nipping in the bud’ the prospect of betting sponsorship gaining the same foothold as it now has in the Premier League in England.
The Gaelic Players’ Association’s Alan Kerins confirmed that gambling has become an increasing problem for GAA players, revealing that almost 40 of them had requested counselling services last year for gambling-related issues. Leading such a disciplined lifestyle, some then crave the type of ‘buzz’ that gambling gives and it often escalates from there.
The GAA ban on sponsorship has pro-actively acknowledged this problem.