A FORMER footballer who battled a gambling addiction has defended Ian Black amid allegations the Rangers player bet against his own team.
Former Hearts midfielder Black, 28, who plays in SPFL League One, is accused of betting against his “then-registered club” three times between March 4, 2006 and July 28 this year. This encompasses spells at each of his last three clubs – Inverness, Hearts and Rangers.
Kevin Twaddle, 41, a former Tynecastle winger who has written a book about the depths of his gambling addiction, described Black as a “scapegoat”. He said: “It doesn’t surprise me one bit. It was only a matter of time before a story came out. This has opened up a huge can of worms.
“These are only allegations and I don’t think he is stupid enough to have bet on one of his own games, I would be very surprised.
“I fully support Black; he’s been made a scapegoat, a pantomime villain, because when it comes to betting on matches, lots of footballers are at it.
“But as long as you’re not betting on your own game – if it’s a social thing – I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Twaddle’s professional career took him from St Johnstone to Raith Rovers, Morton to Motherwell and eventually his beloved Hearts.
But off the pitch, he was squandering his salary along with any other cash he could get his hands on – sometimes betting tens of thousands of pounds in a single day – and even stole from his family.
Having fought his addiction, he now works with players’ union PFA Scotland, taking its gambling awareness project to dressing rooms.
He warned: “I’ve been doing talks with the PFA and gambling is a massive epidemic – everywhere you look there are new ways to gamble.”
Black has also been charged with betting on a further ten games in which the club he was playing for was involved, as well as betting on 147 games not involving his team.
Footballers registered in Scotland are prohibited from betting on any match anywhere in the world.
The midfielder, who was a youth player with Tranent Boys’ club, has until Monday to respond, with a preliminary hearing set for September 12. He could be banned from the sport or face a fine of anything between £500 and £1 million.
Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University, said many young sportsmen were drawn to gambling because of its competitive element.
He said: “I can see how young people in the sports industry, who have a lot of disposable income, are drawn to gambling because it’s highly competitive. All you need is one or two players to get involved and then you have a betting culture.”
‘YOU REALISE WHAT YOU’VE LOST
TWADDLE first told of his gambling addiction in his autobiography, Life on the Line: How to Lose a Million, which was published late last year.
Today, he runs his own painter and decorator business and is concentrating on his career as a pool player – he’s now a Scottish internationalist – and working on PFA Scotland’s gambling awareness project.
He said: “My football career should have gone a lot further but I was too busy going to the bookies. It’s not the money, it’s the time with my family, watching kids grow up . . . that’s what I lost. You can’t get the time back.”