Gambling has for a long time been identified to be epidemic amongst European footballers. But how have the league and the clubs in Germany dealt with footballers who are problem gamblers?
Ever since the first big betting scandal that shook the German Bundesliga in 2005 have allegations of match fixing, and doubts among football fans grown. The main person in 2005, referee Robert Hoyzer, confessed in the end and many thought they had seen the end of such questionable behavior.
Turns out, we did not. Later on a number of footballers had to confess their involvement in match fixing. Amongst them Marcel Schoun, who had played for VfB Stuttgart, VfL Osnabrück and Sandhausen. Schoun was the first of the player to talk publicly about why he was involved in match fixing. He told the New York Times that he encountered gambling for the first time as a 17 year old player at Stuttgart. An older player had brought him along to a bookmaker. Schoun gambled 7 dollars, and won 1500. From that day onwards gambling became an ever growing part of his life.
The latest footballer in line to confess that he has been involved in match fixing is René Schnitzler. The ex-St. Pauli player said that he has received 100.000 euros to throw the club’s away matches against Augsburg, Duisburg, Mainz and Rostock, and the home match against Mainz in 2008. St. Pauli was at that point a playing in the 2. Bundesliga, and fighting for survival.
St. Pauli was quick out in the media to distance themselves from their player, and other players like Mathias Hain jumped immediately on the bandwagon to condemn the rotten apple. It seemed like nobody wanted to offer any deeper insight into the story, and point out that gambling still is hugely popular amongst German footballers. In Schoun’s case the reactions have been even worse. Claus Dieter Wollitz(his coach at Osnabrück) has demanded that Schoun should be thrown into prison, and Osnabrück are considering a civil suit against Schoun.
Same old story
I think that casting this story in black and white terms is not helpful. Schnitzler and Schoun have made mistakes, and they have betrayed the trust that clubs, team mates and fans have put in them, and they should be punished for that(Schoun has already been suspended by the DFB). However, I highly doubt that they wanted to betray all those people who have trusted them.
Schnitzler and Schoun have both pointed out that gambling is widely spread. Schoun told the New York Times that every footballer gambled, at least occasionally. Schnitzler told German magazine Stern a story that I think is indicative of how widely spread gambling is amongst footballers: “When I was a player at Bayer Leverkusen and we went away for a test match against Legia Warsaw a German international sent a hat around, and told the other players that they should put 500 euros into the hat. We were all betting on whose suitcase would be the first one to be put on the conveyor belt at the airport.”
If this story is true or untrue hasn’t been confirmed.
The English newspaper The Independent wrote in 2008 that the number of problem gamblers in English football is ten times higher then in the rest of the population. Turns out, the situation in Germany might not be too different after all.
Who is to blame?
Do the Bundesliga clubs and the German football association bare any blame for footballers like Schoun and Schnitzler turning on their clubs and agreeing to fix matches? I think they do. First of all, why are footballers allowed to place bets on football matches? As the New York Times article about Schoun brought to light, footballers who are notorious gamblers are targeted by bookmakers and asked to throw matches. Shouldn’t there be a total ban on gambling for footballers?
The clubs have happily taken money from the gambling industry through sponsorship agreements. Another ex-St. Pauli footballer, Andreas Biermann, told the online edition of Der Spiegel that he and Schnitzler actually were sent to poker tournaments by the club and their sponsor bWin. Both Biermann and Schnitzler have struggled with gambling. Would you sent an alcoholic to a pub? I find it to be highly hypocritical to criticize someone for gambling, when you in fact yourself take money from the gambling industry.
Considering how many millions of euros the gambling industry has spent on endorsing football clubs all around
Europe, it will be a cold day in hell before any football club says that they do not want to take their money.
What do you think? Should footballers be allowed to gamble? Are the football clubs who take the gambling industry’s money blame free? Leave a comment below.