Former Wales coach Rob Howley has opened up on his betting scandal that shook the Rugby World just a few days before Wales kicked off their Rugby World Cup campaign.
Howley has opened up about the grief over his sister’s death that led to him being sent home from the World Cup after long-term gambling issues.
He spoke out as he nears the end of a nine-month ban on any involvement in the sport after he admitted breaching World Rugby’s betting regulations
He told the Mail on Sunday that he had not paid his sister, Karen, his weekly visit in the days before her death and had agonised over his decision to find her a place to live away from their mother as she battled depression and alcoholism following a divorce.
Howley said: “I blamed myself for her death. If I’d seen her on that Wednesday, would she still be alive? There was a lot guilt, should haves, could haves. By putting her in that house, on her own, I created an environment for her to kill herself. Her alcoholism went from bad to worse … My feeling was that I had driven my sister to her own grave.”
I had a lump in my throat doing this interview. It’s raw, uncomfortable and I have total admiration of Rob Howley for doing it. On the emotional turmoil behind his betting: ‘I’d driven my sister to her grave’. He’s finally at peace & will be better for it https://t.co/ZBb0pZSUHW
— Nik Simon (@Nik_Simon88) May 30, 2020
Howley insisted he was in denial and buried himself into work to block out the tragedy.
He says the gambling started after his guilt returned when he found documents in an attic while dealing with his sister’s estate in November 2015, saying it gave him an escape route from his torment.
“It was never about the money. When my thoughts went towards my sister, betting on rugby was an escapism,” maintained Howley.
Howley says he lost £4,000 in four years and even admitted he used his WRU email address and work phone to place his bets, which he accepts wasn't the wisest thing to do.
He spoke of how he was summoned to the hotel bar for a “beer” by Wales team manager Alan ‘Thumper’ Phillips, who was waiting for him with Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
Gatland told him straight: “I think you’re going to be sent home.” pic.twitter.com/7IgRLLkyue— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) June 1, 2020
Detailing the conversation, Howley says: “He said, ‘What do you want?’ Oblivious to what was about to come, I had half a lager and asked, ‘Is everything OK?’
“Thumper said: ‘Have you been betting on rugby?’ Gats asked the same thing and I said: ‘Yeah, I have’. Thumper put his hands to his head and there was this silence.
“‘Gats asked me how significant the amounts were and I told him there were some bets on Wales.”
Howley then says Gatland told him straight: “I think you’re going to be sent home.”