By Damian Dolan
In the GAA’s war on gambling, the role of the Healthy Club Officer is fast becoming one of the most important within the association in leading the fight.
Congress saw delegates vote overwhelming in favour (93 percent) of prohibiting the sponsorship of any GAA competition, team, playing gear or facility by a betting company.
Speaking in favour of the motion, Alan Kerins from the Gaelic Players Association, highlighted the ‘huge concern’ there is over inter-county players being drawn into the world of gambling. Of the 77 players presented for counselling services this year, over half of those were for gambling.
There have been some high profiles stories in the media turning the spotlight on gambling addiction and the financial, mental and emotional devastation caused.
But for every Davy Glennon, Oisin McConville, Niall McNamee or Timmy Dalton there are many more similar stories out of the media’s gaze. These individuals have spoken candidly about their addiction to gambling and its affects upon them.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a bet here and there, but it’s when it becomes a problem, potentially leading into financial difficulties which can be a catalyst to a host of other mental health issues,” said London Healthy Club Officer Dee Malone.
The role of the Healthy Club Officer is to assist those members with gambling issues by helping to signpost appropriate services provided by local/national agencies and/or voluntary groups in the members local area.
It’s a role Malone, who is now in her third year and is from the St Brendan’s club, was approached about taking on by London county board chair John Lacey.
Significantly on 10 March, McGovern Park will host a workshop to raise awareness about problem gambling. The workshop will be delivered by GAA Health & Wellbeing Administrator Collette Coady, and is the same workshop delivered by the GAA across all 32 counties of Ireland last year.
“The GAA, as an association, has become more modern and moved with the times. They recognise the challenges of bullying on social media and the pressures that people are under,” said Malone, who heads a five-strong committee.
“Things are very different from the 50s and 60s. A different type of resilience is required to survive in the world today, and the GAA recognises that and wants to make sure its members are well supported.”
Malone’s role is that of a facilitator. When approached by a member with concerns about an individual, or by an individual directly, Malone will provide contact details of the people or organisations best equipped to provide the tangible help needed, in the individual’s local area.
As well as gambling, the issue of concern could be related to drugs, alcoholism or other mental health illnesses.
“It’s not for me, or any of the club healthy club officers, to counsel anyone. That’s not our role, we’re not counsellors. But it is very much up to me to have that repository of information,” explained Malone.
“It’s then up to the club member as to whether they want to avail of that help and support.” Malone hopes that the 10 March gambling workshop will be the first of many such workshops, and wants to reach out to all sections of the GAA within London.
“I want it to be inclusive for everybody. I’ve spoken with people involved with Ladies football and camogie, and have told them that I really want the ladies to be involved.
“We’ve had a really good response from clubs, and on the back of that the Health & Wellbeing committee will be asking clubs to tell us what workshops would be useful to run in the future, and how often.
“Once we get one [workshop] off the ground it will be a marker for how we want things to progress. The people who turn up attend on the day will be there because they’re interested, and that will start the dialogue for workshops for the future.
“We can see in the UK, from reports published very recently, that there is an issue with young adolescents starting to take up gambling, because the gambling companies are starting to target children……using bitcoin and cartoon characters.
“This a very much about raising awareness around gambling, and when gambling becomes problematic. What do you do and how do you deal with that?”
The workshop on 10 March will hope to answer that question, amongst others.
To find out more about the 10 March gambling awareness workshop contact Dee Malone on 07949 863878.