Rob Howley Slapped with 18-Month Ban for Betting Breach

  • Nine months of the 18-month ban have been suspended due to mitigating factors
  • Suspension backdated to September 16, 2019 when Howley was sent home from Japan
  • Placed 363 bets on rugby union during a five-year period, 24 involved Wales or Welsh players
  • Howley has been given until December 25 to appeal
silhouettes of Wales supporters against rugby pitch
Former Wales backs coach Rob Howley has been handed an 18-month ban, with nine suspended, for placing 363 bets on the sport. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Former Wales backs coach punished

Rob Howley, the former backs coach for the Welsh Rugby Union team, has been banned from the sport for 18 months, with nine suspended, after betting on hundreds of games during a five-year period.

His suspension has been backdated to September 16, 2019. This is when Howley left the Wales squad at the World Cup in Japan.

banned from the sport for 18 months, with nine suspended, after betting on hundreds of games

A panel investigating the matter discovered that between November 14, 2015 and September 7, 2019 Howley had placed a total of 363 bets on rugby union. He bet on 1,163 matches in total during this period.

The 49-year-old was found to have used his Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) email account and phone to make these bets. 

Major blot on his coaching career

Howley was sent home from Japan just six days before the first Wales game in the pool stages of the World Cup. The team made it to the semifinals, where they lost 19-16 to eventual winners South Africa.

Warren Gatland said Howley had “been through hell” and WRU chairman Gareth Davies confirmed that they had both been in touch with Howley. 

Howley will be able to get back to rugby union on June 16, 2020. He had been in the mix to become the new head coach for Italy before these bettings allegations came to light. 

Placed bets on 24 connected events

Howley violated World Rugby’s regulation 6.3.1, which reads: “No connected person shall, directly or indirectly, bet and/or attempt to bet on the outcome or any aspect of any connected event and/or receive and/or attempt to receive part or all of the proceeds of any such bet and/or any other benefit in relation to a bet.”

Howley has admitted that he placed bets on 24 events he was connected to. These were games involving Wales or Welsh players. Two of the bets were on his own players scoring the first try in a given game. This includes the famous Grand Slam win in March 2019 against Ireland. 

Howley stated that the players did not know anything about these bets. The players themselves reiterated this point when they were interviewed by the investigation team.

The investigation team concluded that over the course of Howley’s betting spree, he did not make any financial gain. In fact, he lost about £4,000 ($5,331). 

The investigative panel also received character witness statements from Wales player Jonathan Davies, former Wales coach Warren Gatland, and Howley’s former coach when he played for the British and Irish Lions, Ian McGeechan. 

Howley’s gambling problem

According to the report from the investigation team, Howley’s betting activity was triggered by a tragedy in his family. It labeled the death of Howley’s sister as being a trigger for his gambling problem.

Howley’s betting activity was triggered by a tragedy in his family

While acknowledging this tragedy, the report did say that “it is much more difficult to understand why he chose to bet on rugby which he knew was prohibited rather than other sport exclusively, which of course was perfectly permissible.”

Nine months of Howley’s ban have been suspended due to mitigating factors. This includes no financial gain as a result of betting activity; his early acceptance of all responsibility; no evidence of misusing confidential info; and the extent of the press attention following these allegations.

Howley says the last bet he has made was on September 2019. He is attempting to stop future betting by working with a consultant psychologist on the matter. 

Howley has two weeks to appeal against the decision from 11 December, 2019.