Scottish Football, SPFL

Enjoying A Flutter

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“An Aberdeen source said: ‘The manager is livid at what has gone on. A team attempting to win the Ladbrokes Premiership against all the odds is being undermined by the sponsors.'”

Oh dear…

The above quote is taken from this piece, which appeared in today’s Record

SPFL chief orders probe after league sponsors Ladbrokes enrage Aberdeen by running book on Derek McInnes axe
According the Keith Jackson, Aberdeen are unhappy with the events of yesterday afternoon when Labrokes stopped taking bets on McInnes being the next manager to leave an SPFL top-flight club, and issued a statement to that effect.

It seems that a series of bets had been placed on him going and so – with the price collapsing – they pulled the plug.

The reason for the flurry of bets is somewhat murky, although there is a suggestion – alluded to in Aberdeen’s own statement – that there had been some ‘unsavoury’ rumours circulating online, which may have prompted some punters to have a flutter.

Aberdeen apprently contacted the soon-to-be-sawed-in-half Neil Doncaster who immediately launched a ‘probe’ [why is it always a ‘probe’ according to newspapers?!].

And as the Record reports: 

“After conducting his own investigation yesterday, Doncaster appeared to be satisfied the Ladbrokes publicity machine had only launched into action after a flurry of bets were placed on McInnes being the next boss for the chop.”

So where does that leave us?

Most probably with an awful lot of hot air, a lively McInnes press conference today, and…that’s about it.

As I suggested yesterday, it seems that Ladbrokes have done what bookmakers do. Bets come in, and they adjust their prices. And if there appears to be a major sudden shift in the market, they might suspend betting altogether.

Oh, and being a commercial enterprise with a PR operation they might decide to get a bit of publicity for themselves by announcing the suspension. Because guess what happens then? That’s right, the media reports “Ladbrokes have announced x”.

It is free advertising. And as you have probably noticed we are still talking about Ladbrokes this morning rather than about other bookmakers.

I can appreciate that Aberdeen and McInnes are (rightly) annoyed about scurrilous rumours, and would rather not have a bookmaker saying McInnes is favourite to leave his post before any other Premiership manager. 

But it happened, and it will happen again in some form or another. Most likely with an Aberdeen player being mysteriously ‘linked’ to another club and with the odds on it occurring immediately dropping. After all, in a world where The Warbmeister can be ‘linked’ with the Liverpool manager’s job, anything is possible…

It might be distasteful but it is part of modern football. And it isn’t going away.

As for the alleged embarrassment to the SPFL in having its sponsor at the heart of a ‘disruptive’ story about the manager of the League leaders… Well that’s tough too. If the game is prepared to get into bed with the gambling industry, then there are always going to be apparent conflicts and hypocrisy.

The fact that Ian Black and others were found guilty of breaking betting rules didn’t stop the SPFL from taking Ladbrokes’ money, and I don’t see the member clubs calling for future sponsorship deals to exclude the gambling industry.

So what can Neil Doncaster do right now in response to Aberdeen’s concerns? Ask Ladbrokes to not take bets on mangers leaving? Ask them not to issue statements about moves in the SPFL betting market? Ask to see all SPFL-related publicity prior to publication? 

None of these things are going to happen. And Ladbrokes would laugh in his face if he tried.

But Doncaster already knows this. Indeed back in August – following Celtic’s Champions League exit – the Herald reported the following in an article headlined SPFL unfazed by bets on sackings

“SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said there were no plans to speak to the betting company about their practices and insisted that their actions go with the territory. He said: “There were no discussions about their marketing plans when we signed the deal and we wouldn’t look to impose on the way they run their business. I wouldn’t have thought any league would.”

“It’s a bookmaking organisation and they’ve got a job to do. Their job is to obviously run their business as best they can.”

[Hat-tip to @rlMarx1 for pointing this out!]

The SPFL – like so many others – has chosen to take the gambling shilling, and until it decides to look elsewhere it has to deal with the consequences.

I’m now away to put £5,000 on Barry Ferguson to be the next Aberdeen manager. You should hear the rumours that are circulating…


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