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1st June 2022, 20:10

​Robba bet against Gibraltar's national team while employed as GFA’s head of legal services - Times report

The UK newspaper The Times reports the man now heading the Gibraltar Football Association bet against his own nation - while employed by the GFA - as well as placing thousands of other bets before taking up the post of General Secretary.

Shortly before The Times broke the story, the GFA issued a statement on Tuesday regarding historical disciplinary action in 2017 against Ivan Robba, claiming his integrity had been brought into question.

The Chief Sports Correspondent at the Times, Matt Lawton, claimed Mr Robba had placed more than four thousand bets, including £15 on Germany beating Gibraltar 9-0 in November 2014.

An investigation was triggered in February 2016 by the bookmaker Bet365 reporting “an unusual betting incident” relating to a Gibraltar Cup fixture between Gibraltar United and Red Imps.

The newspaper cites a report by Gibraltar’s then gambling commissioner Phill Brear in November 2016. No allegations of match fixing were made, but the report reportedly said “it needs no further comment that” Ivan Robba - who according to his own Linked In account was employed by the GFA at the time as head of legal services, licensing and football governance - “bet on the Gibraltar national team to lose and profit from the loss”.

The gambling commissioner said there was a “culture of gambling” among GFA officials as well as players, describing Mr Robba as an “experienced punter”. Mr Robba received a “first written warning” for alleged breaches of betting regulations.

Mr Brear is quoted as saying there was a cultural problem which the GFA assured us they would address, and he believes they did.

Mr Robba was employed by UEFA as an ethics and disciplinary inspector in 2017 when he joined a unit set up to protect the integrity of European football.

At the GFA, he was promoted to the position of general secretary in 2020, by the association’s president, Michael Llamas, who himself has served on the investigatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee.

In 2021, in investigation was then conducted by a Uefa Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector who ultimately decided not to approve the opening of disciplinary proceedings, as the matter had already been dealt with in an appropriate manner by the GFA in February 2017. UEFA let Mr Robba continue in his role as an inspector.

The GFA has had to contend with a series of betting scandals, with players receiving monetary fines and suspensions from all football related activities for up to 15 years.

In comments to The Times, Mr Robba admits he placed a few bets on the national team when he “had only just started” in UEFA and didn’t travel with the team. He told the newspaper there was a lot of this activity going on in Gibraltar among a lot of people and he wasn’t hiding his activity, retweeting betting tipsters and speaking among his friends and in the office.

The Times asked GFA President Michael Llamas why the gambling commission’s report was not made public. He is quoted as saying: “here in Gibraltar it’s quite well known”, adding that he’s “more of an honorary president than a hands-on president of the GFA”.

While stressing he wasn’t breaching any football regulations applicable to him at the time, Mr Robba confesses: had he known then what he knows now, it’s not something he would have done because of the problems — the Times calling him, people allegedly trying to blackmail him.

The General Secretary says he has been through “a very rough time because of this issue”.

And, in response to GBC questions, Michael Llamas says it's well known that at that time there was a problem with betting activity in Gibraltar football, adding the Gambling Commissioner's report was not made public because this would have breached confidentiality and data protection.

For his part, Ivan Robba says many of the "allegations and assumptions" in the Gambling Commissioner's report were "incorrect or inaccurate", adding a legal opinion was obtained from an independent law firm. He says the opinion concluded that the disciplinary regulations did not apply to GFA employees, but recommended disciplinary action, which he accepted and was taken by the GFA, and was later endorsed by UEFA. Mr Robba adds that the GFA then reinforced and clarified its rules on betting. He says he has already apologised and is more than happy to renew that apology, adding he's grateful for the messages of support he's received.