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22nd Feb 2017

NIALL QUINN: Today, the hypocrisy of football is hard to stomach

Wayne Shaw debacle has highlighted double-standards

Niall Quinn

I don’t know Wayne Shaw personally but I have been him, I have played with him and I have had a lot of laughs with him.

We are of the same vintage. I grew up in a world of football that was survivable because it had so many Wayne Shaws.

That world has been shrunk and sanitised and the Wayne Shaws have been locked out and consigned to the margins. We wheel them out every year to demonstrate that the FA Cup is all about football’s heart and soul but that’s about it.

This week, when the romance of Sutton United’s FA Cup run collided with the cold and clinical world of big time football, there was only going to be one winner.

Wayne Shaw was forced to resign in tears from the club he loved and brought so much fun to. With it went all the community work he does. He has a family and a life in the real world. This morning the show has left town and Shaw must feel as if he has been in a car crash.

The club that he helped keep alive accepted his resignation without even waiting for the outcome of any investigation.

There was lots of sanctimony and not enough humanity.

I hope that he gets reinstated and in a short period of time the whole episode is just a bad memory for the man because, today, the hypocrisy of football is hard to stomach.

Wayne Shaw ate a pie to amuse some people, and because the question of whether he would eat a pie or not was made the subject (or the butt) of a novelty bet/joke. Eating the pie was a funny way of answering back. He may have broken some rule as part of the fun but as yet I haven’t heard of any gambling syndicate making out like bandits from the great pie coup.

The betting business, which was touting the Sutton Pie Bet, must have realised that it was trailing a wager that wasn’t a sporting bet and which might have consequences for the human being at the centre of it.

The logo of the betting firm had appeared on the front of Sutton’s shirts for the Arsenal game when the local, family-based company which usually sponsors Sutton, a company called GreenGoWaste, kindly agreed to have their name relegated to the back of the jersey for the biggest occasion in Sutton’s United’s history.

They should have caught the spirit of the big time and insisted on their right to cash in.

On GreenGoWaste’s website that decision was announced in this way, “We opted to offer our position on the shirt for the best interests of the longevity of the club. As a business, we are Sutton United fans and we feel a massive part of the club.”

That is the spirit and generosity that keeps small clubs alive.

When was the last time you saw a Premier League manager or player speak without a backdrop crowded with logos, of which nearly all were bookies? And how often do you see a player getting his man of the match award swigging slowly from a branded bottle of energy drink for a little bit of product placement?

What will Wayne Shaw think when he counts up and sees that exactly half of the teams in the Premier League have gambling firms as their front of shirt sponsors and that every single Premier League club has, “an official gambling partner”.

Will he read the report from last year which said that, “of the estimated €100 million invested by the betting sector in UK sports sponsorship this year, over €80 million goes into football.”

Gambling is deeply embedded in football. I enjoy more than the odd flutter but I don’t delude myself into thinking that what is affordable for me can not be something much darker for a lot of other people.

The Gambling Commission enforcement and intelligence director, Richard Watson, said: “Integrity in sport is not a joke and we have opened an investigation to establish exactly what happened. As part of that we’ll be looking into any irregularity in the betting market and establishing whether the operator has met its licence requirement to conduct its business with integrity.”

Integrity in sport is not a joke but it is odd that it takes a sub goalkeeper eating a pie for a bit of a joke to prompt somebody to remind us of that in such a po-faced manner.

What Wayne Shaw spent all his days doing for Sutton United football club was precisely what the integrity of sport is all about. He made a mistake the other night, caught up in the mad excitement of the whole occasion.

This weekend, football will be back to normal with gambling firms jostling for attention and space in front of the cameras and trailing all sorts of novelty football-related bets for punters. The circus moves on.

British horseracing has just moved closer to making sure that the gambling industry puts something back into the sport.

All betting operators, including online firms based offshore, will be required to return 10% of their gross profits from racing bets back to the sport from April.

I’d like to see that idea extended and for all football bets to be levied and the funds be put back into grassroots clubs, not just used to pay PL players higher wages as it is now.

We could call it the Wayne Shaw Rule and make sure all grassroots clubs got a piece of the pie. Until then, give Wayne Shaw his life back and let Sutton return to being the true community club they once were.

Niall Quinn is a former Arsenal, Manchester City, Sunderland and Republic of Ireland striker. He currently works as a pundit and co-commentator for Sky Sports, and also writes for Sportsvibe.

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