Taylor’s gambling no laughing matter


If Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, did the equivalent job in the National Football League he would not have been allowed to run up alleged gambling debts of £100,000 to a bookmaker.

Taylor, whose £1,082,615 a year salary makes him the highest paid trade union official in the U.K., is alleged to have placed more than £4 million on around 2,000 bets in 30 months.

Taylor, 68, has broken no rules while his members are only forbidden to bet on themselves or their teams. Nothing illegal, but ensuring Taylor will be remembered by many for his gambling rather than fighting on behalf of footballers for the best part of half a century. It can take a long time to build an image, which can then be destroyed by a single act.

The NFL’s gambling policy prohibits anyone working within the sport, from the league’s head office to everyone employed by the 32 franchises, from all illegal gambling (which is everything in some states), all gambling on NFL or any other professional, college or Olympic sports events and all gambling while on NFL business. In other words, just don’t do it.

If you work in the NFL, you cannot even associate with gamblers. If anyone is found guilty of violating any of these rules, it could result in severe discipline from the NFL, including suspension or a lifetime ban.

Every locker room has a notice reminding players that gambling is prohibited. The NFL’s reasoning is that if a player runs up gambling debts it could put him under pressure from the bookmaker to influence the outcome of a game.

Front office employees are sent regular emails to this effect. There are no commercials featuring betting during televised NFL games. Teams must, yes must, publish details of all injuries to prevent anyone from tipping off a would-be gambler who could take advantage of such insider trading. Those concerned may not agree with the rules, but they know where they stand.

In the NFL, Taylor would be history, but his job within the PFA is safe, the chief executive retaining the “full support” of the his management board which believes what happened is a personal matter, though when you are a trade union leader you surely forfeit such privacy.

He is very lucky — a quality which deserted him when betting — as his credibility and integrity have been shot to pieces. A man who preaches the dangers of gambling to footballers yet indulges excessively on a regular basis is guilty of gross hypocrisy.

It wasn’t long ago that Taylor spoke about how “betting can easily spiral out of control.” He should know.

The first thing Taylor, a likable man who has been in his job for 42 years and was awarded the OBE in 2008 for services to football, should do is to seek professional help for his apparent addiction.

There is nothing wrong for most people to gamble responsibly and the habit is too ingrained in the British DNA for the Football Association, which has an official betting partner, to go down the NFL route. However, the PFA could make a start by stepping up the education of players of the downside of gambling and, in this respect, Taylor is now well qualified.

NEVER WILL ENGLISH football be more relieved to see the end of a transfer window. If we could fast-forward to Monday night, we would.

A Spanish newspaper claimed earlier this week that the Gareth Bale transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid had been rumbling on for 87 days. Today is its 91st anniversary and the good news is the story has only two more days to run.

For the past three months, there has not been a day when just about every English newspaper has failed to write a “Bale To Madrid” story. And there has not been a single quote from the player, only “friends” or “sources.”

It has become the ultimate Groundhog Day transfer, beating rather more important issues such as wars for consecutive day coverage.

Until the fat lady sings nothing is certain, though as Spurs are £70 million down in their transfer dealings this summer, they will presumably want to recoup this. Real had offered £83.3 million for Bale, but Cristiano Ronaldo, who is negotiating a new contract, wishes to retain his status as the world’s most expensive player — £80 million.

With this in mind, Real president Florentino Perez revised the bid for Bale to £75 million payable over the six years of the player’s contract. The offer, which has so far been refused by Daniel Levy, did not go down well with the Spurs chairman, a man who treats every pound as a prisoner and the guy you would want to sell your house for you.

I hope I am wrong, but I have a feeling Bale’s Spanish adventure could end in tears. Bale is a wonderful person, the type you would be happy for your daughter to marry.

Basically shy, he has never given a football writer a quote worth shouting about and his media duties barely extend beyond post-game interviews with Sky Sports as he collects his regular Man of the Match award.

In Madrid, he will be stepping into a whole new world where he will be under constant press scrutiny, privacy will become a thing of the past while he will quickly learn that at Real Madrid politics are almost as important as football.

Whatever Bale’s eventual fee is, Ronaldo will make it obvious he remains the star attraction, and though Bale is the most likable of footballers, his relationship with the former Manchester United winger is paramount. Bale’s position in the team will be intriguing.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.