Howley apologises for betting breaches while ‘battling demons’

Rob Howley’s last game as a Wales coach was their pre-World Cup defeat in Ireland in September 2019

Former Wales backs coach Rob Howley has apologised for breaching betting rules as he “battled demons” in the wake of his sister’s death.

On Monday the 49-year-old was banned from rugby for 18 months, with nine suspended, for placing bets on more than 1,000 matches over four years.

Howley said in a statement on Tuesday: “I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those close to me and everyone this has affected, especially the rugby community, close colleagues and above all my family.”

An independent Welsh Rugby Union disciplinary panel found Howley had made 363 bets covering 1,163 matches over four years, including some on Wales that included first try scorers.

The death of Howley’s sister Karen in 2011 was identified as a trigger for his betting activity by the disciplinary committee.

“I am an extremely private man, and unfortunately it was this that kept me silent as I battled my demons following my sister’s tragic death,” Howley said.

“The last few months have been immensely tough, and continued help will allow me to find the right path back to rugby, which has always been my true passion.

“I am immensely grateful for the faith and support I’ve received from everybody close to me.”

‘No suggestion of dishonesty’

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half Howley also highlighted some of the panel’s findings, quoting them as saying: “Mr Howley acknowledged his breach of the regulation at the first available opportunity, has demonstrated deep felt and genuine remorse, [and] has an exemplary character and an exemplary disciplinary record (both as a player and coach).

“There was no suggestion of dishonesty or misuse of confidential information involved.”

The panel also noted “the fact that Mr Howley had sought help from a psychologist who had diagnosed that the trigger for Mr Howley’s recreational betting had been a family tragedy, and that Mr Howley had refrained from betting since his suspension”.

Howley – who was said to have lost £4,000 on his betting activities – was sent home from Japan six days before Wales’ opening World Cup win against Georgia and replaced by Stephen Jones.

His suspension is backdated to his withdrawal from that World Cup campaign, on 16 September 2019 and he can be involved in the sport again in June 2020.

‘It’s tough talking about Rob Howley, he’ll bounce back’ – Justin Tipuric

‘Rob will bounce back’

Wales back-row Justin Tipuric, who said he had no inkling Howley was betting on games, believes the coach will return to rugby once he has served his ban.

“It’s tough talking about Rob, we had nine years together with him coaching me,” the Ospreys flanker told BBC Sport Wales.

“He’s a good guy but at the end of the day those rules are there for a reason and, knowing Rob, he’ll accept that and bounce back.

“The WRU have thought hard about it, they’ve tried to be as strict as they possibly can be.

“It’s more thinking about his family. Rob cares quite a lot about his family and, knowing him, he’s probably beating himself up quite a bit.

“Everyone makes mistakes in life and you have to bounce back from them.

“He’ll find a job somewhere and make sure he does a good job when he does come back.”

You can read the disciplinary panel’s full judgement here.

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