The European Tour has a new policy in its regulations this year that forbids a player or a caddie to place a bet on any golf tournament in which they are participating.
That’s the letter of the law. But it’s not the intent.
“It’s a completely new regulation for us,” said David Garland, director of tour operations. “We just feel that looking at other sports, and instances of gambling scandals in other sports over here, we didn’t have a policy. It’s been a little topical at the moment.”
Betting, particularly in Britain, is almost a sport unto itself. Garland said golf is the fourth-most popular betting sport in the United Kingdom. During some of the major championships, there can be bets on who will have the lowest score among a particular group, or even as simple as who will place in the top 10.
The first section of the policy is that no player or caddie can either directly or indirectly bet or be involved in a bet in a competition they are playing or have any influence. Another section forbids players or caddies to provide information in which either has inside information.
That kind of stuff would appear to go on all the time.
“I don’t think the $20 bet is a problem,” said Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the tournament committee. “We’ve had big scandals in cricket, there’s stuff going on in snooker. You have to protect yourself against the inside stuff.”
So is this policy directed mainly at caddies?
“Not at all,” Garland said. “We know the caddies have a range of small bets. It’s just making them aware that it can lead to other things. They’ve got to realize caddies are an integral part of the golfer’s team. They can influence, and they need to be aware of this policy.”
Garland said the tour essentially needed to protect itself with a policy, especially in light of other scandals. Unlike the anti-doping policy, in which a six-month education process preceded the policy taking effect, the tour put it in the books immediately and will spend the next year talking to various people involved to make them understand.
“What we’ve seen in other sports is that it’s the individual who’s not at the top of the game that gets involved,” Garland said. “It starts with information. Then it goes to, ‘Can you do this for me and do that for me?’ In the world of illegal gambling, these are high numbers people are talking about, and it may become tempting.
“We want to get this over to players, caddies and everyone connected on the tour about the dangers involved.”