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2016/17 Season News

Dean Brett - 24th February 2017

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Dean Brett - 24th February 2017

PostedFebruary 24, 2017

In December 2016 Cowdenbeath FC was made aware by the SFA Compliance Officer that two complaints had been received from equality groups regarding comments on player Dean Brett’s Twitter account. An investigation and hearing followed with the outcome being that it was concluded that Dean had made comments upon a social networking site, namely Twitter, that were of a discriminatory, and offensive nature, based upon sexual orientation as well as comments that were otherwise of an offensive nature. The SFA imposed an 8 match suspension as follows – 4 matches immediate. Thereafter four matches suspended for 12 months - contingent on various matters including Dean producing evidence to the Judicial Panel Secretary within a deadline, that he had attended training upon a) the use of social media and b) Equality issues.

Whilst examining his Twitter account in respect of that complaint the SFA further identified evidence of betting on football from Dean’s Twitter comments. The SFA advised they would take action on this but would first obtain data from the Gambling Commission. The SFA then sourced data from the Gambling Commission and thereafter issued a notice of a complaint on this matter to the club.

Under SFA rules no player can engage in gambling of any description on football. Evidence provided to the SFA by the Gambling Commission was passed to the club and then on to Dean. It covered Dean’s football gambling activity since season 2011/12. In summary this detailed that 2787 bets were placed with 11 different bookmakers on 6369 matches.

Most critically and the key reason for the club’s own internal Disciplinary process being invoked was that 65 of these matches involved games that Cowdenbeath FC were involved in and that crucially on no less than 8 occasions Dean had bet on his own club to lose – 5 of these 8 being matches where he was playing for Cowdenbeath. The 8 matches in question were v Brechin City, Falkirk and Rangers in 2014/15 (the 3 matches that Dean did not play in); v Rangers (2), Raith Rovers and Ayr United in 2015/16; and v Dundee United in the current season. 7 were accumulator bets and one was a correct score bet with amounts ranging from 5 to 50.

Dean was suspended on full pay by the Club on Thursday 16 February to allow the Club to fully investigate and go through its disciplinary process as set out in the club’s ‘Disciplinary Code of Practice’. A Disciplinary Hearing was then held at Central Park on Tuesday 21 February. At the Hearing, Dean confirmed that he had indeed made the bets in question. He also admitted that he had previously denied making any bets on Cowdenbeath FC to lose - firstly to the Club manager Liam Fox last December and then to the Club Chairman Donald Findlay on 16 February 2017. He further admitted he believed the Club would in the circumstances be entitled to dismiss him.

A detailed Record of the Hearing proceedings and comments was passed to the Board (and copied to Dean). The verdict of the Hearing was also passed to the Board and it concluded that Dean’s conduct in respect of the complaint constituted Gross Misconduct. This verdict was then ratified and accepted by the Board - deemed to be Gross Misconduct in terms of the Club’s own Disciplinary Code of Practice, the terms of Dean’s own contract with the Club and indeed also in terms of what would be considered the normal standards required in senior professional football.

In a case of gross misconduct the employer (Cowdenbeath FC) has the right to terminate employment and dismiss the employee concerned but other options can also be considered.

The Board thus considered what action should be taken in respect of this Gross Misconduct. Dean’s long service to the Club, his well-documented and tragic personal difficulties in 2014/15 plus clear evidence of a gambling problem were among the important mitigating factors taken into account in this case. Various options were considered but ultimately, and with a very heavy heart indeed, the Board concluded that this was an act of Gross Misconduct which could warrant no other sanction but dismissal. The Board’s duty was clear. A player betting on his own team to lose, often in matches in which he was playing, is not a situation Cowdenbeath FC could accept or excuse. Simply put no Cowdenbeath FC player committing such an act could remain in the employ of the club.

The Board of Cowdenbeath FC therefore has today conveyed to Dean its decision is that he is dismissed and his employment has been terminated without notice. We believe this decision to be one that any reasonable employer would make and that it is both fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

The dismissal will take force immediately with Saturday 25 February 2017 formally being Dean’s last day of employment.

Dean was further advised that he does have the right to appeal against his dismissal. If he wishes to do so he should inform the Club Secretary in writing by 3pm on Wednesday 1st March 2017 stating his grounds of appeal in full with any material submissions. The dismissal would still take effect as described above, but if an appeal is successful, there would be a reinstatement with retrospective effect to the termination date and any lost pay reimbursed.

Dean was also given a letter by the Club secretary from the 11 Directors of the club as individuals acting on a collective basis which read as follows:

‘Letter to Dean Brett on behalf of the 11 Directors of Cowdenbeath FC 24 February 2017

Dear Dean,

We recognise the very heavy blow that the Club’s decision advised today will be to you. Perhaps you can also appreciate the upset and sadness that all the Club Directors personally feel. Feelings which of course will be shared by many of the Club’s fans. Dismissal is the Club’s confirmed decision but that does not take away the fact that we as individuals still have compassion towards you. In light of that all the Directors have also asked me to write to you on the following terms.

You believe and have admitted you have a gambling problem. It may be an addiction but we are not qualified to judge. You also now have the SFA verdict on the matter of homophobic and offensive comments plus their requirements re training on such matters.

Your friend and long-term team-mate Kenny Adamson spoke well for you, with passion and realism, at the Hearing. He said ‘Dean has obviously done wrong. Everyone knows that, the fans know that. For me he has massive gambling problems. He needs to get support. You need to force him to go to a meeting’.

Now we cannot force you to do anything but we do feel that you are in need of what some might call ‘Tough Love’. We are willing, if you wish, to try to support you in this very difficult time in the manner set out below.

Firstly, we are willing to make 3 ex-Gratia payments of equal amounts to you at the end of each of the next 3 months – i.e. March, April, and May. The amounts paid to you will equate to the sum you would have received as wages under the remaining period of your playing contract if your employment by Cowdenbeath FC had not been terminated on 25th February 2017. This is contingent on you also agreeing to the terms below.

We will seek to enable and/or set up a mentoring group for you with say one or two Directors, a nominated fan or fans, maybe a relative is willing to be involved (final format to be worked up) which will work with you in a mentoring role. This mentor group would provide you guidance as necessary and have regular meetings (say fortnightly to monitor progress). An action plan can potentially be established with milestones. It would of course be your responsibility to take action but the Mentors would help to provide a framework, to steer you, act as a sounding board, challenge, encourage and review and monitor your progress as appropriate – e.g. that you take up the offers of help from such as John Hartson, the PFA, go to Gamblers Anonymous or similar plus any other steps in a plan that can be pulled together to help you move forward and deal with some of the issues facing you. The issues re the training and education you are required to take on the use of Social Media and equality issues would also be supervised.

In addition, we would require that your Facebook and Twitter accounts be closed down and that you refrain from any activity on Social Media as well as any betting or gambling. You have many friends, Cowdenbeath fans and others, whose help we would seek for ‘keeping you on the straight and narrow’. They can all act as monitors so to speak – if matters don’t go to plan then the mentor group may choose to withhold or defer payment of the ex-Gratia amounts. We believe this is worth a try but if and when you join another club we might need to step aside albeit some amended continuing arrangement may be possible. The ball is in your court – we can only help if you wish us to and you want to do what will be necessary. We accept though you may have another way forward or plan you wish to follow. Or that maybe this approach could dovetail with some other actions or form part of an overall package.

You will also need to respond to the SFA’s complaint against you in respect of betting on football and we are willing to represent you at the hearing when it takes place unless you decide another party should accompany you. We wouldn’t expect that you would contest the complaint but we could assist with your response and speak on your behalf in mitigation.

So please do have a think about it for a few days and then let me know if you wish to take up this offer of help and we will look to set the wheels in motion. In any event, we do most sincerely all wish you all the very best for the future.

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