Hamilton head coach Brian Rice hopes to put five years of gambling hell behind him after accepting an immediate five-game ban for breaching betting rules.
The Accies boss has owned up to breaching Scottish football’s strict betting regulations in a bid to beat his demons.
Making an emotional address outside Hampden after accepting his Scottish Football Association punishment, he said: “I’m a compulsive gambler who hasn’t gambled today. I’m taking it one day at a time.”
The 56-year-old admitted breaking the SFA’s zero tolerance rules on betting on football matches in each of the past five seasons.
As well as an immediate five-game ban, Rice has also been issued with a further five-match punishment suspended until the end of next season by disciplinary bosses which could be triggered if he fails to attend recovery sessions.
Accies must also submit a certificate each month stating that he has not gambled.
But the former Hibernian, Nottingham Forrest and Falkirk player hopes that by confronting his addiction problems he can finally wriggle free from its grip.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” he added. “It was a fair hearing. I deserve my punishment. I’ll serve it and then it’s back to football matters.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders. I’ve let a lot of people down. But I’ve handed myself in, been honest to myself and honest to everybody. I’ll move forward now.
“I feel this is a new start for me as a person. Hopefully that will reflect on what I can do at Hamilton Academical.
“It’s been very difficult but the support I’ve had from everybody has been overwhelming.
“I can only move on to tomorrow. I’m going to meetings, I’m speaking to people and I need to move forward now – but it’s one day at a time.
“I’m forever grateful that this chapter of my life is now closed and I’ll do everything I can to repay these people.
“It’s been very dark. But I can’t do anything about the past. All I can worry about is the future and hopefully it’s a bright one.”
With all three major domestic trophies sponsored by betting firms, his plight has sparked a fresh debate around Scottish football’s relationship with the betting industry.
But Rice refused to point the finger of blame.
He said: “The betting industry did not make me do what I did. Brian Rice made Brian Rice do what he did.
“It was my choice because I was an addict. I was doing it online, going into bookies, everything. That’s what addicts do. You’re powerless. You’re helpless.
“But now I’m in recovery.”
Hamilton chief executive Colin McGowan – who has called on the SFA to hold a gambling amnesty – said: “We got a real fair hearing with all the mitigating circumstances taken into account.
“I think it’s a good day for all. The panel praised Brian for his honesty in coming forward. That played a big factor in the ruling.”
An SFA statement read: “The period of suspension selected reflects the gravity of the breach of the rule involving the large number of low value bets.
“The tribunal chose to suspend one half of the sanction to reflect the genuine efforts it considered Mr Rice has made to ‘put his life and that of his family back together again’, and to take account of his genuine expression of remorse for his breach of the rule and the effect that has had on his family, the club and the Scottish FA.
“It is the hope of the tribunal that the suspended element will not be imposed but will play some part in helping Mr Rice to avoid returning to the practice, which has so blighted his life.”
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