ARE professional athletes living in a borderline police state or is it sound advice?
NRL CEO Todd Greenburg has revealed that former integrity unit chief Nick Weeks implored league players to delete gambling applications from their phones to prevent a similar situation to the Tim Simona debacle ever materialising.
Weeks – who was recently appointed the chief operating officer of the NRL – spoke to players a number of times throughout 2016 in an effort to alert players to the dangers of gambling and the threat it can have on their careers if they bet on rugby league.
Tiger centre Tim Simona is facing a potential life-time ban from the sport, but the NRL CEO believes players had more than enough warning about the potential harm betting on the NRL would have on their careers.
“Last year I visited all 16 clubs and I had Nick Weeks, who heads up our integrity unit, with me,” Greenberg told Triple M radio over the weekend.
“I remember (he said) … ‘if you’ve got apps on your phone and you want to bet on other sports that’s entirely your choice. But my strong advice to you is have those apps off your phone because in three clicks you could be betting on something.
“You might enjoy that in other things, in racing or other sports, but if you’re a fully-fledged NRL contracted player our strong advice was stay away from it. It was super and crystal clear to every player that we visited and should be in the future.”
Greenberg refused to be drawn into speculation that Simona would receive a life-time ban from the NRL, but stressed that the penalties are severe for players that gamble on their professional sport.
“Obviously there are always two sides to every story and we’ve got to deal with facts and evidence but some of the things I’ve seen and read … just can’t be stood for in the game,” the NRL CEO said.
“There are things that happen in the game where people make errors and mistakes and I think the game has been very forgiving over a period of time. It has a great history and track record of making sure people get second chances. “But there are also things that absolutely are the fundamental integrity of the sport itself and this is one of those. I’ve seen so much education provided to young footballers about what they can and can’t do.
“It goes from whether it’s drugs or whether it’s wagering. There should be no player in the NRL who is under false pretence that betting on rugby league is on. If you do want to bet on rugby league, that’s entirely your choice.
“But guess what, you can’t be an NRL contracted player. You can’t have both, so make a decision.”
Is it the NRL’s place to be telling players how to run their lives?
It can be viewed as risk mitigation or an astute move for players that feel they could potentially punt on something they should not, but does that mean the league should be suggesting that their employees should delete gambling apps from their phones?
NRL is just one sport offered by Australian bookmakers. There is a multitude of sports that take place in Australia alone that give league players ample opportunity to get on the punt.
If the Simona made a complete error of judgement or was unscrupulous and chose to use inside knowledge to wager on the NRL. Does the fact he may or may not have had an online bookmaker account app on his phone contribute to that? Absolutely not.
Players are treated like commodities enough in the 21st century. Let them live their lives. Unless the NRL outlaws players gambling on sport completely then they should not be suggesting that bookmaker apps get deleted from their phones.
League players are not children. Sometimes it is best just to let the players think for themselves.