Rob Howley, former assistant coach to the Welsh rugby union team, has been suspended from the sport for 18 months, with nine suspended, after admitting to breaching anti-corruption and betting regulations.
Howley has been sanctioned by an independent disciplinary panel appointed by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), after he admitted to multiple breaches of World Rugby Anti-corruption and Betting Regulations.
Between November 2015 and September 2019, it was discovered that Howley placed 363 bets on rugby union games via accounts with Betway, William Hill and Ladbrokes. These bets were placed using the mobile phone given to him in his role as assistant coach, and using his WRU email address.
He placed 200 bets with William Hill, 13 with Ladbrokes, and 150 with Betway – the operator which alerted the WRU to Howley’s activity. This prompted his immediate suspension from coaching duties with the Welsh team in the run-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
With his contract due to end following the tournament, this resulted in his premature departure from the Welsh Rugby set-up after 11 years.
Among the bets placed were a number on the Welsh team, including some player-specific bets, with Howley admitting that he was aware that to bet on the sport constituted a breach of World Rugby regulations.
According to World Rugby regulation 6.3.1, “no connected person shall, directly or indirectly, bet and/or attempt to bet on the outcome or any aspect of any connected event and/or receive and/or attempt to receive part or all of the proceeds of any such bet and/or any other benefit in relation to a bet.”
From this activity, which he suggested had been triggered by a family tragedy, he lost an estimated £4,000.
This could have seen Howley banned from any rugby union related activity for up to five years. However, the disciplinary panel took into consideration character statements issued by a number of high-profile figures, including former Wales head coach Warren Gatland, Welsh international Jonathan Davies, and Scottish national team player and coach Sir Ian McGeechan.
While the panel concluded a suspension was unavoidable, it was satisfied that a ban of 18 months, was a proportionate punishment. The nine-month suspension is backdated to the time of his initial withdrawal from coaching duties, on 16 September, meaning he will be able to return to the game on or after 16 June, 2020.
“To insist that he serve a further immediate period of suspension before returning to coaching would, he submits, be disproportionate,” the panel explained.
“A further period of immediate suspension would be unduly punitive in his submission and it would likely impact adversely on Mr Howley’s well-being.”