Football betting: Ian Black says Scottish football should scrap betting sponsors

Black spent three seasons with Rangers before leaving for Shrewsbury in 2015

Scotland’s football authorities should drop gambling firms as sponsors or change the regulations on players’ betting, according to Ian Black.

The former Rangers midfielder, punished for a gambling offence in 2013, told BBC Scotland that reform is needed.

“They’ve got a cheek taking money from betting sites as sponsors and then doing players for betting,” Black said.

The Scottish Professional Football League says investment by bookmakers has “benefited all 42 clubs”.

All of Scotland’s senior leagues and cup competitions are backed by bookmakers’ firms, while footballers playing in Scotland are prohibited from betting on any matches.

Black, 32, was fined £7,500 and given a 10-match ban, with seven of those suspended, after admitting to placing bets on 160 matches over a seven-year period.

The charge included betting against his own team on three occasions.

“It was a sore one. I shouldn’t have done it and it’s gone now, but I was made an example of, that’s for sure,” said Black. “I got hit hard.

“Looking at it now, you’ve got directors [Aberdeen’s Duncan Skinner] getting a £500 fine.”

A Scottish Cup winner with Hearts in 2012, Black insists gambling remains a widespread pursuit for footballers.

“It was probably rife before I started kicking a ball and it will keep happening,” he said.

“It goes on everywhere and it’s still going on. It’s a worldwide problem and you won’t stop it.”

The SPFL is close to agreeing an extended and improved sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes.

And a league spokesman said: “Significant investment by bookmakers in recent years has benefited all 42 clubs and supported the growth of Scottish football.

“There is a clear and sensible distinction between the rules applied to those who can influence the outcome of a game and fans betting responsibly.”

Black spent seven months at Blackpool last year, helping them win promotion to League One

‘Go and find somebody else’

Black, who insists he has “never had a gambling problem” added: “Scottish football people will say it’s because the game will die a death because no-one else will sponsor them.

“Drop them or look at the rules, but it’s never going to stop, for the rest of my life anyway.

“They are scrutinising players but sitting there with the billboards everywhere. Scrap them as sponsors; go and find somebody else.”

Black, who has signed for Tranent Juniors after a spell with English Conference North club Chorley, believes the blanket ban on players betting is flawed.

“If it’s a game you’re playing in, that’s understandable,” he said. “But to bet on another team beating another team; I don’t understand how we can influence that.”

A spokesman for the Scottish FA responded: “The SFA takes its responsibility towards gambling within football seriously and has clear rules in place prohibiting gambling, which apply to players, referees and directors.

“In addition, we have delivered comprehensive gambling education workshops to all 42 SPFL clubs and academies.

“Scottish football has long enjoyed productive relationships with a number of betting companies and we are grateful for their continued support of our national game.”

Luis Suarez feared World Cup biting ban would derail his Barcelona move

Fifa imposed a four-month ban on Luis Suarez after the incident with Giorgio Chiellini

Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has said he feared his “dream” move to Barcelona was off after he was banned for biting during the 2014 World Cup.

The Uruguayan, 30, admitted he cried following the incident with Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in Brazil.

And, in one of his most open interviews, Suarez said he cried again when Barcelona said they still wanted him, despite the controversy.

Suarez was speaking in an interview with Barcelona team-mate Gerard Pique.

Suarez joined the Spanish club from Liverpool for £75m in July 2014, less than two weeks after receiving his four-month ban – his third suspension for biting an opponent.

Suarez said he first spoke to Barcelona about a move during the tournament, but feared the transfer would fall through following his actions in the Group D match.

“It was everything – in addition to thinking about the World Cup, and being able to fulfil my dream to come here to Barca – everything had gone overboard for me,” he said.

“The truth is, it was a very, very painful moment for me, for the team, and obviously, what happened, it affects you. It hurts you and all that.”

The striker said he spoke to Barcelona a few days after the incident, and “they told me to be calm because Barca still wanted me”.

“And I have no problem saying it, I cried,” he continued. “Because, they were accepting, and me going through what I did in that moment… it was complicated to trust in me.”

Suarez had asked to leave Liverpool in summer 2013 but, after serving a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Invanovic, went on to sign a new four-and-a-half-year contract with the Reds that December.

His reputation among English fans had been tarnished, though, and he admitted scoring against England in Brazil was a career highlight.

“Playing against them and scoring two goals, truth is, for me, it was the most emotional moment I’ve lived in my career as a national team player, regardless of the titles and the previous World Cups,” he said.

Suarez, who has scored 98 goals in 113 appearances since his move to the Nou Camp, said the club have supported him from the start.

“Barca has been so good to me, and I will always be very grateful for that,” he said.

No agreement for Mkhitaryan move to Arsenal in exchange for Sanchez

Mkhitaryan has made 22 appearances for United this season

There is no agreement in place for Manchester United forward Henrikh Mkhitaryan to join Arsenal in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, a source close to Mkhitaryan has told the BBC.

It is understood Sanchez has agreed personal terms with United.

But neither Arsenal nor United will sanction the deal without Mkhitaryan travelling in the opposite direction.

The 28-year-old Armenian is believed to be deliberating over the move and is in no rush to make a final decision.

United pipped Arsenal to the signature of Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund for £26m in July 2016.

He is not demanding to leave Old Trafford at all costs but has a different footballing philosophy to manager Jose Mourinho and that has raised the possibility of his departure.

There are said to be alternative options on the table and that it is not entirely out of the question that he opts to stay at United, where he is under contract until 2020.

It is also understood Dortmund have ruled out making a bid to re-sign Mkhitaryan.

The German side inquired about Mkhitaryan before the transfer window opened but they felt the transfer fee was excessive.

While they have previously bought back a number of players who have left the club, including former Manchester United player Shinji Kagawa, it is understood they have no intention of bidding for Mkhitaryan.

In addition, Dortmund have had no offer from Arsenal for Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gunners are reported to be interested in Aubameyang, who was dropped at the weekend for disciplinary reasons.

Theo Walcott: Everton close to agreeing deal for Arsenal forward

Everton are close to agreeing a deal with Arsenal to sign forward Theo Walcott in a permanent transfer worth in excess of £20m.

It is likely Walcott, 28, has played his last game for the Gunners, whom he joined from Southampton 12 years ago.

Southampton were among clubs interested in signing him, but Everton’s offer is set to fend off rivals.

Walcott is also enticed by the prospect of Toffees manager Sam Allardyce helping to reignite his career.

More to follow

Carlos Tevez: I was on holiday during Chinese Super League spell

Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua in a deal worth a reported £40m

Argentina striker Carlos Tevez has described his spell in the Chinese Super League as a “holiday”.

The 33-year-old, who joined Shanghai Shenhua in December 2016, returned to boyhood club Boca Juniors this month.

Tevez, who was reportedly one of the highest paid players in the world, scored four goals in 16 games and was widely criticised while in China.

In an interview with Argentine TV, he joked: “It’s fine because I was on vacation for seven months.”

He said: “When I landed in China, I wanted to return to Boca.”

In September, new Shanghai coach Wu Jingui said Tevez was “overweight” and could not play until he was fit.

This is Tevez’s third spell at Boca, having played for them from 2001 to 2004 and 2015 to 2016.

Argentina legend and former Boca player Maradona described his return as “perfect”.

“He filled Santa’s sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca,” 57-year-old World Cup winner Maradona said.

Tevez has won eight league titles in four countries, including the Premier League with Manchester United and Manchester City.

Desire burns inside me and criticism is unfair, says new Wales boss Giggs

‘Proud’ Wales boss Giggs was ‘itching’ to return to football

New Wales boss Ryan Giggs says he has been unfairly criticised by fans, and a desire to reach a major tournament with the country “burns” inside him.

Giggs, 44, played 64 times for Wales between 1991 and 2007 but, despite a trophy-laden club career, did not appear at a major international finals.

He was criticised for regularly pulling out of squads, and especially for missing friendly matches.

“I think it is a bit unfair, but football is about opinions,” he said.

A Manchester United legend, Giggs is one of the most decorated footballers in history – winning 13 Premier League and two Champions League titles in 963 appearances for the Red Devils.

He has signed a four-year contract to succeed Chris Coleman, but is yet to decide on his backroom staff.

His first game in charge will be against China in Nanning on March 22.

‘I’ll give my all for Wales – as I did when I played’

Giggs, a former Wales captain, did not play in an international friendly between 1991 and 2000, leading some to question his commitment to the team.

He told BBC Sport Wales: “I played more than 1,000 games and I didn’t get there without managing myself.

“Early on in my career I had problems with my hamstrings and missed loads of United games, but the criticism I’m getting is something I just have to deal with by winning games.”

Giggs knows a key part of the job will be to form “good relationships” with clubs, and realises he will need to be flexible with them and his players.

“It’s about managing what is best for the player and also for the country,” he said.

“When you’ve got Champions League quarter-finals and you are asking the players to travel all around the world, it’s about striking that balance.

“I want all the players to report for every game. That is impossible for whatever reason, so you pick a squad, some pull out and that gives others a chance.”

Giggs is hopeful hard work and positive results will be enough to win over fans dubious about his appointment.

“Some will support you, some won’t,” he said. “The only way to change their mind is to give it your all, which I intend to do.

“I intend to be successful, I intend to win games, and that’s all I can do. Everything else is out of my hands.

“The people who have got an opinion of me not giving my all, I can promise you that I did when I played for Wales and I’ll continue to do that as Welsh manager.”

Alan Shearer to Ryan Giggs: Good luck getting Wales players to friendlies

‘The desire burns inside me’

Giggs won 34 trophies during his club career and was the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year in 2009.

But – like fellow United legend George Best, and Wales greats Neville Southall, Ian Rush and Kevin Ratcliffe – he never played at a major international tournament.

Wales were one match away from reaching the 2004 European Championship but were beaten by Russia in a play-off.

“It wasn’t enjoyable going on holiday and watching my mates play in the European Championship or World Cup,” said Giggs.

“All I could do was try to get to a major championship. I always believed we could do it.

“There were campaigns where after a few games we were out of it and it was frustrating. But it still burns, that desire to get there and I want to do it as a manager.”

Giggs – who described his appointment as his “proudest moment” – said success in management would mean more than his playing accolades.

Speaking of his four matches in caretaker charge of United after David Moyes’ sacking in April 2014, he said: “When I was manager it superseded anything as a player, because it is different, a different feeling.

“As a footballer it is what you do, you’ve done it since you can walk and you just go out and play. Managing and looking after your coaching staff and your players, the responsibility you’ve got for your fans… it is completely different.

“It is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. There are going to be stresses, there are going to be highs and lows, but I am looking forward to it.”

Wales and Giggs – Together stronger?

Talking to the players… or Sir Alex

Giggs intends to seek the advice of his senior players in the coming days.

He said: “I want to tap into all the good experiences they’ve had, the things that maybe frustrate them, and sometimes you might take their advice, sometimes you might not.

“You want to get as much background of things that have worked over the last few years.”

Giggs spoke to former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson before his appointment, and says his mentor is one of many people he can call for advice.

“Our conversation was pretty short really, which is normal for a conversation with Sir Alex, which I don’t mind. He just wished me luck and congratulations and said the phone is always there if I need him,” Giggs added.

“I am fortune to have someone like that to lean on. But I am my own man and there are plenty of players who I played with who I can tap into their experience as well.”

Man Utd cruise to victory against Stoke

Antonio Valencia celebrates his third goal of the season

A Paul Pogba-inspired Manchester United cruised to victory as incoming Stoke boss Paul Lambert watched his new side’s struggles continue at Old Trafford.

The France midfielder created first-half goals for Antonio Valencia and Anthony Martial, added to by Romelu Lukaku after the break as Jose Mourinho’s men cut Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League to 12 points.

United might have had an early penalty when Martial was felled by Stoke debutant Moritz Bauer, but referee Anthony Taylor waved away protests.

Two minutes later, Pogba charged forward and found Valencia, who cut inside Josh Tymon and fired into the top corner with his left foot.

Martial collected Pogba’s pass and bent a superb finish past Jack Butland from 20 yards for the second – before Lukaku rifled home the third late in the game.

Stoke did create several chances. Midfielder Stephen Ireland – starting his first game since April 2015 – should have scored from 12 yards but fired wide, and goalkeeper David de Gea made excellent stops to deny Xherdan Shaqiri and substitute Mame Biram Diouf.

More to follow

Alexis Sanchez: Man City end pursuit of Arsenal forward

Manchester City decide not to pursue their interest in signing Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez.

Chelsea’s £1bn stadium moves closer after council’s injunction decision

Chelsea’s £1bn development of Stamford Bridge moves a step closer after a council passes a motion that will prevent an injunction blocking the plans.

Rangers sign Scotland forward Cummings on loan from Forest

Rangers sign Jason Cummings from Nottingham Forest on loan until the end of the season, with the option to buy the Scotland forward.