Brian Rice, the manager of Scottish Premier League (SPL) club Hamilton Academical, has been issued a ten-match suspension after he admitted multiple breaches of the Scottish Football Association’s (SFA) betting rules.
This will see Rice banned for five matches immediately, with five suspended until the end of the 2020/21 season. The suspended ban is on condition that he regularly attends recover meetings, does not breach Disciplinary Rule 31, and the club submits a certificate stating he has not gambled since 17 October, 2019 every month.
Earlier this month Rice admitted that he was guilty of multiple breaches of Disciplinary Rule 31, which prohibits any individual under the SFA’s jurisdiction from gambling. These occurred between 14 July 2015, and 15 October 2019, across five SPL seasons.
The judicial panel explained that the suspension reflected the gravity of the breach, with Rice having placed a large number of low bets over the four-year period.
Rice could have faced the ultimate penalty of a £100,000 (€118,987/$131,494) fine and even a lifetime ban, according to the SFA’s Judicial Protocol. However, the panel said the decision to suspend five of the ten-game ban reflected “the genuine efforts it considered Mr Rice has made to put his life and that of his family back together again.”
It considered that he had showed genuine remorse over his offence, and the effect it has had on his family, the team, and the SFA.
“It is the hope of the Tribunal that the suspended element will not be imposed but will play some part in helping Mr Rice to avoid returning to the practice, which has so blighted his life,” it added.
Rice’s admission of a gambling problem has sparked a debate in Scottish football about the prevalence of gambling brands in the game. The managers of two of the country’s leading clubs, Celtic’s Neil Lennon and Aberdeen’s Derek McInness, have argued that betting companies provide important sponsorship revenue for Scottish clubs and competitions.
However, a player anonymously told the BBC that gambling in dressing rooms was a frequent occurrence, despite the risk of punishment.