Belfast Telegraph

McConville hails GAA’s ban on sponsorship from bookies

By Brett Campbell

A former Gaelic footballer whose life was almost destroyed by a 12-year gambling addiction has welcomed the GAA's decision to ban all sponsorship from betting companies.

More than 90% of 270 delegates voted in support of the motion that "sponsorship by a betting company of any competition, team, playing gear or facility be prohibited" at the annual congress in Croke Park on Saturday.

Former Armagh player Oisin McConville was a compulsive gambler before turning his life around to help others addicted to betting.

In 2007 the sportsman admitted to seeking help for his addiction after he amassed sizeable debts.

"There is serious problem with gambling in our society right now and given the GAA's amateur ethos it has a social responsibility to take the lead in addressing it - I am proud to belong to a sport that has taken significant steps in doing that over the last number of years," Mr McConville said.

The way in which he faced up to the problem led to an outpouring of support from within the GAA community and strengthened the voice of those calling for change.

"I had a personal issue with this, but I was by no means on a crusade to make this happen," he explained.

"A lot of people had a vested interest in bringing about major changes; it started when the GAA banned betting on under-age games and it has just progressed through a series of baby-steps.

"Saturday's result is pretty overwhelming because it indicates that the majority of people want to see these changes."

With no county teams currently in a major sponsorship deal with a bookmaker the decision is not expected to result in any major disruption, but it will see Armagh GAA's current partnership with Boylesports come to an end. The bookmaker is only one of 20 official sponsors.

McConville, who went on to obtain professional qualifications in counselling and has dedicated a lot of time to helping people break free from the destructive habit, praised the GAA for being proactive in tackling social issues such as gambling, alcohol and substance abuse.

In addition to campaigning against half-time adverts and discussion of betting odds during match commentary, he said there was more work to be done.

"The GAA is at the heart of every community throughout Ireland and like all other sporting organisations it has a responsibility to reflect wider society, but the government must to do more," he warned. "Online gambling is destroying lives every single day, but Ireland's gambling legislation was written in the 1950s - the lack of progress in this regard has been very disappointing.

"I didn't know anything about the perils of gambling addiction. More education certainly would have helped me. Thankfully young guys coming up now have some awareness."

Speaking before he forwarded the motion, Mick Rock of Connacht GAA described the sporting world as "besieged by gambling" and said the ban "will enhance the moral standing of the GAA in Irish life and protect the integrity of our games".

Saturday's congress in Dublin also saw John Horan take over from Cavan man Aogan O Fearghail as GAA president.

Belfast Telegraph

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