Some questions about Zac Guildford.

Zac Guildford’s latest alcohol-fueled incident has been amply covered in the press, and the focus is on his problems with the drink. But there is another issue that the media have only briefly touched upon that is far more worrying than his drinking.That raises questions about what the New Zealand rugby authorities know or are doing about it.

Consider the fact that Guildford, a 23 year old well-paid professional rugby player and All Black to boot, is living in the house of a 43 year old man. One would think that a player in his circumstances could afford an apartment of his own. Perhaps he needed guidance as well as companionship. But the older flatmate in question is not a personal trainer, rugby coach, NZRU representative, his agent, an addiction specialist, mental health counselor, spiritual guru or a relative.

No, the flatmate, who Mr. Guildford has lived with for two years, is a TAB bookmaker. Apparently he specializes in harness racing and got to know Guildford through their mutual interest in horse racing. Regardless, the bottom line is that the bookie makes his money playing the odds on sport and Guildford happens to play at the pinnacle of a sport that is the national pastime. Odds-making depends on information. Information on professional sports is carefully managed, often regulated and therefore hard to come by, especially when it comes to precious national institutions like the All Blacks. In many countries professional athletes are barred from having any contact with gambling entities or bookmakers of any sort, or if allowed, under strictly supervised circumstances. Apparently that is not the case in NZ, or at least in Guilford’s case.

It gets worse.  Guildford is rumored to have a gambling addiction problem, and even his bookmaker buddy admits that the latest incident involved gambling as well as a drunken assault.

So lets recap what we know so far: an immature, young, alcohol and possible gambling addict professional athlete on New Zealand’s most revered sports team shares a house with a bookmaker who considers the athlete to be one of his best mates. They share a love of horse racing, which is also a love shared by the athlete’s jockey girlfriend.

This leads me to some questions. Is it me or is there not a potentially serious problem here? Do not the Crusaders and NZRU feel a touch uncomfortable with this triangle? Do they not consider the implications of having a reputed alcohol dependent gambling addict on their payroll living with a bookmaker while exchanging pillow talk with a jockey? Things like rugby training ground injuries, possible lineups, game strategies and formations and a host of other team intelligence is the stuff bookmakers live and dream for. Add to that the possibility of the casual exchange of information on horses, racing tactics and betting trends and one has the potential for manipulation of odds in a number of betting scenarios, with the common denominator being a talented but troubled professional athlete as the source of inside information. All of this against a backdrop in which organized crime has its hand in the gambling business.

I may just be a cynical doubter and everything about Mr. Guildford’s relationships with the bookmaker and jockey are above suspicion. The triangle could be fine except for Mr. Guildford’s drinking. However, methinks that alcohol issues are only part of the problem that is Zac Guildford. The issue may well be much larger and far more insidious than one man’s personal failures, which makes me wonder why the rugby authorities and mainstream press have avoided the gambling angle like the plague. It is not like the summer news cycle is jam-packed with hard story action.

Lets look at a worse case scenario: if it became known that at least one bookmaker has inside information on Guildford’s rugby teams and/or the ponies via his jockey friend, then a scandal of major proportions could well ensue. The trouble is that avoiding the issue does not make it go away, and if what I am wondering about proves to have a grain of truth–and I have no basis for ascertaining the truth either way–then the damage to NZ sports as well as the country’s reputation could well be immeasurable.

It is time a stakeholder addressed the issue of the exact nature of the relationship between the troubled rugby player, the jockey and the bookie.


14 thoughts on “Some questions about Zac Guildford.

  1. These are incredibly serious insinuations you are making, especially as there is not a shred of evidence that Guildford has ever thrown a match, underperformed or spot fixed in any way. Information may have passed between the three of them, sure, but talk is cheap. Without any possibility of verifying that information, its not something that any good bookmaker would want to put money on. Too much risk that the drunken and potentially unreliable informant is just talking shit. The serious wrongdoing occurs when a player acts at the bidding of the bookmaker to underperform, and you’d be hard pressed to find examples of that through Guildford’s playing career.

    I agree though, the possibility that he has a gambing problem is far more serious that his potential alcoholism. Is there ever any suggestion that he has bet on rugby matches?

  2. awbraae:

    I ask these questions precisely because of the serious implications involved and because no one else has. Your point about cheap talk and bookmakers not wanting to assume the risk of relying on unreliable information is well taken, but it is the gambling, not the alcohol, that is the focus of my concern.

    Guildford appears to be more of a binge drinker that a chronic drunk, so he clearly can perform on the pitch when he needs to. But a sober athlete gambler is just as much, if not more of a concern than a drunken one. As I said in the post, I have no evidence either way and, to reiterate, I am not making any firm accusations. But even the appearance or hint of something untoward is unseemly, which is why I am surprised that the rugby authorities appear not to be concerned about the bookmaker/jockey/Guildford triangle.

    Again, just because questions about this triangle are uncomfortable does not mean that they are not worth addressing.

  3. awbraae:

    What you say is true from one angle (i.e. cover up a (potential) scandal that could impact on revenues and reputation). On the other hand, transparency in dealing with a (potential) scandal may be a better way to deal with the problem. After all, it is a well known truism that it is not so much the original sin but the cover up that gets people and institutions in trouble (the examples are myriad). If the rugby authorities were to acknowledge the appearance of impropriety and investigate the exact nature of this triangle, that may be a better way of reassuring the public, sponsors and other rugby unions (and of course the investigation could simply white wash the issue).

    I am fully cognizant that the more likely response is the scenario you just mentioned–but that may only be a short term solution, especially since it appears that Guildford’s problems and associations were very well known inside the NZ professional rugby community.

  4. I don’t mean from the point of view of a cover up (though knowing the NZRU and their sponsors, I wouldn’t be surprised.) I more mean from the point of view of innocent until proven guilty. This simply does not apply to athletes who are suspected of fixing, doping or betting on their own games. Once the mere suspicion is there, it is there forever. Perhaps they just want to make absolutely sure there is fire before going public with any smoke.

  5. OK awbraae, that is a very good point. Which is why independent commentators, if not journalists, can help keep the process honest as it moves forward (if it does at all).

  6. Thanks for this excellent essay, Pablo. I would bet New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s weekly donut allowance that the notoriously dozy New Zealand football “leadership” has not even considered the issues you’ve raised.

  7. Thanks Wally:

    That line about Christie is a gem. Your other point is also well worth noting.

  8. ummm… me thinks you are reading WAY to much into this… a young kiwi man drinks to much and does stupid things while…. happens like 1000 time every weekend…

  9. my own view is that the sort of misadventure Guilford is often involved in are usually the result of a mix of alcohol and legal or illegal drugs, in excess use or withdrawal. They also often reflect a fairly mean intelligence and frustration particularly in men of about 20. The real point of our obsession about Guilford wellbeing and misadventures is our national worship of mediocrity and the ordinary people. Guilford isn’t even a notable or exceptional all black or rugby player. Just a young blade who flashed into the limelight briefly and lived too well to have any chance of maintaining the momement. In NZ the All Blacks who are venerated are always the huge forwards and backs Meads, Murdoch and Lomu- all very limited and uninteresting personalities.
    The respect for such dour personalities as Meads and Hillary, I find upsetting. Meads has the brain and raw personality of a Merino sheep- the famous bio written for him by Alex Veysey revealed meads to be a ultra conservative backwoods patronising character essentially massively racist and patronising.
    Neither do I regard drinking to excess, gambling, mental illness or many physical problems as diseases- the medical and psychiatric model is an easy and lucrative excuse for weakness and the consequences of a too small society which main problem is a lack of sexual privacy for people to have free hetro sexual lives and too much respect for ordinary people who are rarely of merit or much use.

  10. In light of the international betting and doping scandals now reaching into Australia and across sports codes, this quote from the jockey girlfriend in the Feb 10 2013 edition of the Herald on Sunday (on line) pretty much sums up why the NZRU should be proactive on the matter:

    “She rejected suggestions he had a gambling problem.

    “I know it looks bad that he’s with a jockey and living with a bookmaker. But he doesn’t even have his own TAB account. I know he has made some bets when he’s been to the races with me but that’s about it,” she said.”

    Earlier in the article she said that “(h)e is not an alcoholic or a heavy alcohol drinker. He is not in any means like that.”

    Place Tui ad here.

  11. all the they things Sam Spratt said could be true!

    that doesn’t mean he hasnt done some stupid things while under the influence… its plain to see that he has… if you don’t drink much and then do sometimes you get the volume wrong…

    re the betting where is YOUR Prove!!!!

    re ‘bookmakers’ are you suggesting that they all have to live on there own!!!

    simple put! you are seeing things that are NOT THERE!

  12. leftydave:

    Let’s hope so. Best to see the post as a smoke detector, and hope that the NZRU has plenty of them as well as fire extinguishers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *