Man behind footy tab backs exotic betting ban

By Joe McDonough
March 7, 2017

“WIN a motza on the footy, Footy Tab!” – The slogan from the 1983 Footy Tab commercial was pretty catchy.

The ad assured footy fans there was no harm in having a cheeky bet on the game. “Well it used to be illegal but now one way’s OK, you can have a little flutter and win a fortune on the day.”

Michael Cleary, who was the man behind Footy Tab as NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation in the early 80s, admits they were concerned back then that corruption could creep into rugby league.

“I remember when we brought Footy Tab in, they said [corruption] would start but I thought we had rules [that would safeguard against it],” the former Kangaroo tells RLW.

“We didn’t have all those [exotic] betting options when we brought in Footy Tab.”

Of course, talk of match-fixing pre-dates the legalisation of Footy Tab. The 1952 and 1963 grand finals in particular, have long been clouded in controversy. But spot-fixing has only emerged in recent years. Ryan Tandy being found guilty of purposefully conceding a penalty in front of the posts in an effort to influence the first scoring play of the match, is a clear example of that.

And now Fairfax Media has reported that Tim Simona yesterday made admissions about his gambling to the NRL – after being accused of arranging bets on opposition players he was marking to score against the Wests Tigers.

Cleary says Todd Greenberg’s intention of ridding the game of exotic betting options is a step in the right direction – but he’s still in disbelief players could commit that cardinal sin.

“I never even thought of betting on a game. I can’t see how someone could ruin a sport by doing that – bloody sell his soul to win a few dollars.

“We played because we loved the game. We didn’t love the money, there was no money in it.”

Asked how it would’ve been received by South Sydney teammates, like his skipper John Sattler, if he was found to be betting against them, Cleary doesn’t mince words.

“They’d bloody break your neck. They wouldn’t talk to you, wouldn’t have anything to do with you. You certainly wouldn’t get picked again.”