Belfast Telegraph

Lafferty's honesty will help but there's a lot of gambling in football, says McKeown

 

By Graham Luney

Footballer Gareth McKeown, who was banned and fined for a breach of Irish FA betting rules, says he can understand how Kyle Lafferty became addicted to gambling and he feels it's a problem which still runs deep throughout the game.

McKeown, who now plays for H&W Welders, was banned for the rest of the season in February last year and fined £1,000 when he was at Carrick Rangers.

The bets were made while McKeown was on the books of Glenavon and, though he was not involved himself in the games, he was found to have given information to his grandfather.

The games involved are understood to have included Irish Premiership and Reserve League matches.

McKeown said he was unaware of the exact details of the IFA and Northern Ireland Football League policy on gambling and held his hands up at a meeting of the Association's Disciplinary Committee.

Northern Ireland international Lafferty has admitted he has a gambling addiction and, while McKeown maintains his betting habits were never as harmful as those of the Hearts frontman, the former Crusaders favourite can understand how the 30-year-old developed a problem.

"I thought I could make a bit of money from the betting but I made a mistake and was punished," said McKeown. "I can understand why people get caught up in it all and it can be hard to break free from it.

"There's a lot of gambling in football and people enjoy doing it. There are rules, of course, which need to be obeyed and players need to be made aware of them. I still have a bet sometimes but I've never viewed myself as having an addiction.

"There are players like Kyle and Keith Gillespie who must have lost a lot of money. When a bet comes in and you win a lot of money you get a buzz from it and think you can keep doing it. It then becomes an addiction.

"If you lose money you think you can win it back but I'd imagine it can seriously affect your career and personal life.

"I've spoken to Keith Gillespie about his experiences and it turned his life upside down and damaged relationships, he lost friendships and had to borrow money. When you are earning a lot of money it must be very tempting to place large bets and win a huge amount."

The 34-year-old praised Lafferty for being open and honest about his addiction while acknowledging that more 'banter' from fans will come his way.

"The fact that Kyle has spoken about his problem shows he is worried about it and wants to change," added Mckeown. "He's being honest with himself and admits he needs help. I still get a bit of stick about it but I learned my lesson."

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