LACHLAN CAMERON, the chairman of Ayr United, believes the Scottish Football Association's disciplinary panel chose to give Michael Moffat a six-game ban for gambling as a reaction to the relatively lenient sanction handed down to Ian Black last year.
The Ayr striker was found guilty of betting on six matches involving his own club from August 2012 to August 2013, and on a further 150 matches between February 2012 and September 2013. For a number of charges including three times betting on his then-club not to win, Black was given a 10-game ban but with seven of the games suspended, the Rangers midfielder served only a three-game suspension.
Under SFA guidelines players are not allowed to gamble on matches at all beyond authorised and registered football pools. Moffat, who is the leading goalscorer in SPFL League 1 this season, will start his six-game suspension immediately, although the player has five days to appeal the decision.
Cameron, who attended the hearing at Hampden yesterday afternoon, felt that his player had been treated "grossly unfairly".
"Michael was never accused of betting against his own team," he said. "Ian Black was and he was found guilty of that. I am very disappointed in the result and it affects us greatly.
"Gambling is a problem in football that the SFA is trying to deal with and I agree with that. But I think given the situation he has been treated very unfairly. Grossly unfairly. I think, taking the Ian Black case into consideration, if you compare the two what's the more serious offence? Just because the original panel got Ian Black off lightly, they're now laying the hammer down on Michael Moffat."
Cameron felt the backlash that greeted Black's punishment, as well as an increased awareness regarding the problems of gambling in football, meant Moffat was always likely to get a severe penalty.
"I read the paper yesterday and saw the Keep It Clean campaign [relating to match-fixing]," he said. "I thought, even though that has nothing to do with and had no bearing on this case, we were going to get screwed. Are we going to appeal? I would like to say 'no' but I also didn't think he would be treated this poorly and the judgment would be this grossly unfair.
"I'm not accusing them [the SFA] of playing hardball because of that. This is out in the public domain now and they are really starting to make a push. When it first started with Ian Black, that wasn't the case."
There is a further disciplinary issue in League 1 still to be resolved, with Vincent Lunny, the SFA compliance officer, awaiting a written response from John Gemmell before deciding whether to issue the Stenhousemuir striker with a notice of complaint following a Twitter rant against Ally McCoist.
The SFA lawyer has written to Gemmell for an explanation of his social media outburst earlier this month and is expecting a reply in the coming days as he weighs up action against the 29-year-old.
Gemmell had called McCoist a "p****" in a tweet after learning of the Rangers manager's complaints over his being asked to play four games in just 11 days - three of them consecutively away from home. McCoist argued that their rearranged trip to face Stenhousemuir on Sunday January 5, should not have taken place just three days after a victory in Airdrie, which itself had taken place three days on from an away win against Dunfermline Athletic.
Gemmell took umbrage in a foul-mouthed riposte, adding: "Just fed up listening to guys like McCoist moaning when they've got the best job in the world."
Lunny - who took action, leading to a censure, against Hibernian striker Rowan Vine after he made "offensive comments on Twitter suggesting the use of violence" against Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager - will consider Gemmell's reply before deciding whether to issue a notice of complaint.
McCoist embraced the striker at the end of Rangers' win at Ochilview and later joked: "I get called worse in my own house."