MP Monica Lennon has written to the Scottish Football Association in support of Hamilton head coach Brian Rice, who faces a disciplinary hearing for breaching betting regulations.
Rice reported himself to the SFA earlier this month after admitting he had suffered a relapse in his battle against a “horrible” gambling addiction.
In her letter to SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell, Lennon describes gambling addiction as a “major public health issue in our society that the football community is not immune from”.
She adds: “The stigma associated with problem gambling is a barrier to people and their families getting help. It must have been incredibly difficult for Brian Rice, head coach at Hamilton Accies, to come forward and disclose his gambling addiction.
“In my capacity as a Central Scotland MSP and as health and sport spokesperson for my party, I have a close working relationship with Hamilton Accies and I know that their community outreach work supporting people affected by the harms of alcohol and drugs misuse and problem gambling is saving lives in Lanarkshire and beyond.
“This is the positive difference that clubs can make in our community and I am keen to discuss with you the wider contribution the Scottish Football Association can make to this public health and well-being agenda.
“I know that the club is taking Brian Rice’s welfare very seriously and I have been heartened by the overwhelmingly compassionate response from fans.
“Addiction is always cloaked in secrecy and denial, but Brian has taken the courageous step of admitting he has a problem and it is vital that he gets the help he needs.
“I urge you to be mindful of the nature of addiction and to recognise it is an illness. Punishment doesn’t break the cycle of addiction; if only it were that easy.
“I would strongly welcome any new measures by the SFA to encourage anyone affected by problem gambling to seek help. Proposals for an ‘amnesty’ would send a strong message to players, coaching staff and fans who are living with the fear and shame of problem gambling.”
The sanctions available to the SFA disciplinary panel range from a three-match to a 16-match ban to expulsion from the game in the most serious of cases, and a fine of up to £100,000.
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