[image credit : The Times]
Hamilton Academical Football Club manager Brian Rice has voluntarily acknowledged breaches of its gambling rules after the club received a notice of complaint from the Scottish FA (SFA) about the breaches.
The club said it has, “co-operated fully with the association throughout the investigation period,” into breaches of the rules by Rice between 2015 and 2019, while its Chief Executive Officer said he would propose a “gambling amnesty” to encourage self-reporting of gambling breaches.
Rice said that he regretted his actions, which he said he took as he struggled with gambling addiction.
“Firstly, I would like to express my regret to the players, coaching staff and my friends and colleagues at Hamilton Academical for the lapse that has prompted me to voluntarily acknowledge breaches of the Scottish Football Association’s gambling rules,” Rice said.
“This decision was one of the hardest I have had to take but in a way also the easiest. I have made no secret of the fact that I have struggled with the disease that is gambling addiction in the past.
“The reality is I am an addict and while I have been proud of the fact I have been in recovery from this disease, a key part of the recovery programme is honesty: honesty to myself, and honesty to those who have and who continue to support me, including my family and my football family at Hamilton.”
Rice added that his decision to acknowledge the breaches was a necessary part of his recovery from this addiction.
“I wrote a letter to the Scottish FA self-reporting my gambling and did so as an admission that my disease has returned, in order that I commit to recovery,” he continued. “I have apologised to those at the club in whom I have sought counsel and I apologise today to the players, fans and colleagues I have let down through my gambling addiction.”
“I accept that a breach of the rules will come with punishment and I accept that. The reason I am speaking out is to remove the stigma attached to this horrible, isolating disease, in the hope that those involved in Scottish football who are similarly in its grasp feel they can seek help and draw strength from my admission.
“I look forward to a future founded on truth and commitment to recovery and it is my wish that anyone who feels vulnerable, helpless or hopeless in the grip of this silent yet destructive disease can come forward and seek help.”
Club Chief Executive Colin McGowan said that, as the news will gain media attention, he hoped the focus would be on the effects of gambling addiction rather than the rule breaches themselves.
McGowan said: “As a head coach in the Scottish Premiership, news of his breach of gambling rules will come with profile, media attention and scrutiny. But this is a far more serious issue than a breach of a football rule, a breach that both Brian and the club accepts.”
“It is the latest example of a disease that afflicts many people across Scotland and doesn’t discriminate by profile or professional capability.”
McGowan added that he was proud that Rice was willing to admit the extent of his problem.
He said: “On behalf of my fellow directors at Hamilton Academical, we are proud that our head coach, Brian Rice, has today spoken publicly of his struggles with gambling addiction. As a recovering addict myself – and somebody who has dedicated the last 20 years to counselling individuals across the country, from all walks of life – I believe Brian’s actions are a show of colossal strength and inspiration.
“Having spoken extensively to Brian since his addiction resurfaced, I know that his followed a well-worn path from smaller, less frequent bets to the snowball effect of a daily addiction. He has re-engaged fully with professionals, is committed to recovery and has the full support of all at Hamilton Academical.”
McGowan said he would propose a rule to the SFA that would allow for amnesty for problem gamblers who self-report infractions such as Rice’s.
He said: “It is my intention to write to my colleagues at the SPFL to table a proposal to the Scottish FA’s Professional Game Board for the introduction of a gambling amnesty in our game: one that will enable people to confront their addiction in a safe and non-judgmental environment, with help and support readily available.”
Hamilton Academical did not specify exactly what Rice’s breaches were, but SFA rules say that players and managers “shall not gamble in any way on a football match.” It also states that they may not “knowingly behav[e] in a manner, during or in connection with a match in which the party has participated or has any influence… which could give rise to an event in which they or any third party benefits financially through gambling.”
Rice became Hamilton Academical manager in January 2019, his first managerial job. In a 20-year playing career, Rice appeared for Hibernian, Nottingham Forest, Grimsby, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Clyde and Greenock Morton, as well as the Scottland Under-21 national team. Before becoming Hamilton manager, Rice had been assistant manager at Hibernian, Ardrieonians, Dundee United, Inverness and St Mirren.