Aviva Premiership
Bath chief raises gambling fears
August 12, 2010
Bath's Andrew Higgins, Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett
Andrew Higgins, Michael Lipman and Alex Crockett have since kick-started their careers © Getty Images

Bob Calleja, chief operating officer at Bath, has continued to raise issues over player welfare, pinpointing gambling as a possible future problem in rugby.

Calleja was front and centre when the Aviva Premiership club struggled with the fallout from drugs bans to several leading players in 2009 and has pressed for greater attention to wellbeing.

England prop Matt Stevens and former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison were both banned for admitting taking drugs last year while Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins were all suspended for missing drugs tests.

Now Calleja, who has engaged a local vicar to help with counselling for Bath players, believes that another threat is looming.

"Gambling is the next issue that really has to be addressed," he told The Bath Chronicle. "There's not a gambling problem at Bath but there is one generally in professional sport. "Players have a lot of spare time and are reasonably well off. There has to be a lot more work done on helping players avoid gambling addiction. It's next on the agenda. Some of them play cards, and the only advice I ever gave to one of the young lads when they were playing poker was 'don't play with anyone who earns more than you do'."

Calleja also backed the club's stance over the protracted disciplinary process involving Lipman, Higgins and Crockett, all of whom have now kick-started their rugby careers elsewhere, at Melbourne, Exeter and Bristol respectively.

"We never made a judgement as to guilt - we wanted to find out the facts," he said. "But it did cause, there's no doubt, a lot of unrest because two of the players were the captains. Lippy and Crocks taking on the captaincy was part of the maturing process for them, and Steve Meehan had confidence in them. But he had no hesitation to take the action that we took.

"It was the darkest moment. Diabolical. Darker than when we were in 11th place in the league and had to win our last game of the season to stay up. That was nerve-racking and unpleasant, but to go through this incident with the players and the personalities involved and the issues at stake, was very difficult."

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