Azeem Rafiq is an English professional cricket player who had his gambling debts paid off by the Professional Cricket Association. Rafiq had racked up debts worth thousands of dollars a few years ago. The PCA offered its financial and moral support to the 30-year-old by paying off his debt and directing him to specialized gambling counseling. The story was put into the spotlight as the PCA is currently dealing with major claims of racial discrimination.
Rafiq, Alleged Victim of Racism, Called His Gambling Habit An “Indiscretion”
30-year-old ex-Yorkshire off-spinner Rafiq called his gambling interest an “indiscretion”. However, when the PCA decided to take the lead and cover his debts, it also asked for Rafiq to receive specialized problem-gambling counseling.
Rafiq also claims to have fallen victim to racism during the time he spent on the pitch. Despite the help he had received from the PCA for his gambling problem, he never stopped criticizing the organization for its inability to stand by him and support his accusations against Yorkshire players and coaches. Rafiq had seven of his racism allegations confirmed by an independent investigation.
In November, the athlete met with a Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport select committee and once again expressed his harsh criticism regarding the union’s stand in relation to the rampant racism he claims to have been subject to at Yorkshire. While admitting the PCA’s openness to support his mental health during his suicidal crisis last year, he also claimed the organization refused to offer him any financial support.
Gambling Addiction Plagues Athletes in Professional Sports
This is not an isolated case of an athlete who gambles on sports and ends up in debt. NBA star Michael Jordan, baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez and other top athletes all went through similar situations at some point in their lives. While most had no problem keeping things under control, others ended up with a negative balance in their accounts.
Another prominent case involves the San Jose Sharks’ Evander Kane who went through a roller-coaster of accusations by his former spouse, one of which was that he gambled on his own games. He was eventually suspended for 21 games through November 30 over breaking COVID-19 protocols, while no evidence about his match-fixing surfaced. Kane is also a self-professed gambling addict.
Sports wagering is a phenomenon that does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon, which means more attention should be given to the matter of athletes who choose to embrace the habit. Ranging from addictive behaviors to outstanding debts and attempts to rig sports competitions, the potential problems associated with gambling athletes are numerous and cannot be ignored.
Most major sports leagues have set up special provisions meant to prevent teams and players from betting on their own sport. However, they are allowed to wager on other sports. The NFL has decided to prohibit everyone part of the league except for players to engage in any sort of sports betting activity. Players can wager on any other sports except for NFL games at any sportsbook, according to NFL’s 2018 Gambling Policy.
The PCA Is Expected to Change Its Policy
Rafiq’s story could be the trigger that the PCA needed to revise its current betting athlete policy. More decisions could be made and fresh protocols could be added to the existing ones, especially given the organization’s partnership with EPIC Risk Management.
Together, they aim to address the matter of cricket gambling while raising more awareness of the perils of problem gambling. However, the PCA’s current policy does not include prevention measures for gambling athletes. The PCA and all sports leagues in the UK are expected to update their gambling policies in the foreseeable future.