Angry former Socceroo to fight betting sanction
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, June 24 (Reuters) – Former Australia defender Robbie Hooker has slammed the national soccer federation as “hypocritical” after he was sanctioned for betting on domestic league matches when playing as an amateur in an over-35’s league.
Hooker, a former assistant coach of the Socceroos, was given a suspended A$1,000 ($770) fine by Football Federation Australia (FFA) for breaching the governing body’s national code of conduct.
The FFA did not name Hooker in a media release announcing the breach on Monday but said they had been alerted by a betting agency as part of an integrity agreement.
Though his fine was suspended, 48-year-old Hooker said he would spend A$500 to lodge an appeal to clear his name and would consider further legal action against the FFA.
“Everyone knows (betting) is going on among amateurs,” Hooker told Reuters by phone on Wednesday.
“For whatever reason, when my name came up, they decided it was time to start sanctioning amateur players?
“The rules are not applied equally to everyone.
“(Betting) is in our culture. If all the grass-roots and amateur players were to cease betting, the operators would probably lose 50 percent of their revenue.”
The FFA cited its national code in the media release on Monday, which bans registered players from betting on any club competing in a match.
Hooker, an assistant to former Australia coach Holger Osieck from 2010-13, said his breach related to A$50 spread across “five or six” bets on A-League matches last October.
He said it was “fishy” that he had been singled out.
“They’ve looked at my name rather than my status as a grass-roots, social player,” he added.
“There’s clear discrimination based on who I am.”
Like many Australian sports fans, Hooker is an enthusiastic gambler and earlier this year told local media he was in a dispute with a betting agency, claiming they owed him A$600,000 in winnings for bets on sports events.
The FFA lists a prominent betting operator on their website as an official partner.
“It is hypocritical … They’ve got a massive conflict of interest here,” said Hooker, who played for Australia from 1990-98.
“At the very least they’re very irresponsible for allowing such companies on their website.”
The FFA were not able to provide immediate comment but said in Monday’s statement the breach had been made public as a “general warning” to players who may not be aware of the betting prohibition. ($1 = 1.2928 Australian dollars) (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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