Hamilton head coach Brian Rice has revealed he reported himself to the Scottish Football Association for breaching betting rules after his “horrible disease” of gambling addiction returned.
The 56-year-old has been charged with breaching the SFA’s zero-tolerance rules on gambling on football during this season and each of the previous four campaigns.
Rice previously admitted a 30-year gambling problem in 2013 after being threatened with jail in Qatar over a £65,000 debt which friends helped him pay off.
The former Hibernian and Nottingham Forest midfielder has expressed his regret at his lapse and declared he wanted to “atone through openness”, a decision backed by his employers.
In a statement on his club’s official website, Rice said: “I have made no secret of the fact that I have struggled with the disease that is gambling addiction in the past.
“The reality is I am an addict and while I have been proud of the fact I have been in recovery from this disease, a key part of the recovery programme is honesty: honesty to myself, and honesty to those who have and who continue to support me, including my family and my football family at Hamilton.
“I wrote a letter to the Scottish FA self-reporting my gambling and did so as an admission that my disease has returned, in order that I commit to recovery. I have apologised to those at the club in whom I have sought counsel and I apologise today to the players, fans and colleagues I have let down through my gambling addiction.”
Rice joined Hamilton 12 moths ago and was assistant manager at Inverness and St Mirren during previous seasons on the SFA charge sheet.
He added: “The reason I am speaking out is to remove the stigma attached to this horrible, isolating disease, in the hope that those involved in Scottish football who are similarly in its grasp feel they can seek help and draw strength from my admission.
“After committing to recovery I cannot believe that I have found myself back in the grip of gambling addiction but this disease is not cured with a finite course of treatment.
“You are an addict for life and through my commitment to the 12-step recovery programme, I am confident I can stay on top of this disease one day at a time.
“I am eternally grateful to the club for its unwavering support, both seen and unseen.”
Hamilton chief executive Colin McGowan, who has previously spoken about his own battles with alcohol and drug addiction in his younger years, believes Rice’s admission could be a watershed moment and called on the SFA to adopt an amnesty on gambling offences in order to help players and coaches confront their addictions.
McGowan said: “On behalf of my fellow directors at Hamilton Academical, we are proud that our head coach, Brian Rice, has spoken publicly of his struggles with gambling addiction.
“As a recovering addict myself – and somebody who has dedicated the last 20 years to counselling individuals across the country, from all walks of life – I believe Brian’s actions are a show of colossal strength and inspiration.
“Having spoken extensively to Brian since his addiction resurfaced, I know that he’s followed a well-worn path from smaller, less frequent bets to the snowball effect of a daily addiction. He has re-engaged fully with professionals, is committed to recovery and has the full support of all at Hamilton Academical.”
McGowan thanked the SFA for its empathy and vowed to support Rice as a club.
“We also believe Brian’s public admission today can be hugely significant in helping the lives of other coaches and players who can relate to his addiction and other addictions,” he added.
“Brian’s courage can be a seminal moment for Scottish football.”
Rice faces a hearing on January 30. The sanctions available to the 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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