Former Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has been suspended from all involvement in rugby for 18 months, nine of which are suspended, for breaching betting regulations.
Howley returned home from Japan shortly before the autumn’s World Cup began after the Welsh Rugby Union became aware of possible wrongdoing.
The ban is backdated to the time of his initial withdrawal from the global showpiece on September 16, enabling him to take up a post in rugby from June 16.
In the written decision released by the WRU, it is revealed that in October Howley was charged with making 364 bets on rugby union over a four-year period, using accounts with three different bookmakers held in his own name.
Howley “received the proceeds (or part of the proceeds) of the successful bets” and the former Lions scrum-half accepted the charge “without qualification”.
The WRU’s policy and integrity manager Jeremy Rogers was contacted by an employee of Betway who claimed that Howley had placed bets on Wales games.
At a September meeting to explain the process for the investigation it was noted that Howley was “visibly upset” and said “I’m putting my hands up. If I was being evasive, I wouldn’t have used my works mobile phone and email account”.
It emerged that he placed a bet on a Wales player to be the first try-scorer in the 25-7 Six Nations victory over Ireland in March, but Howley stated that it was part of a treble bet, adding that it was part and parcel of his normal recreational betting activity.
However, he then conceded that he knew betting on matches involving Wales was a breach of World Rugby anti-corruption and betting regulations.
Of the 363 bets Howley placed on a total of 1,163 rugby matches, 24 were on games connected to Wales including two upon Wales players scoring tries.
The judgement reveals that the bets were “part of an increasing pattern of recreational betting” and that on both occasions the stake was “no more than a few pounds”.
Following examination of Howley’s electronic devices including his laptop and phone, “no material was discovered which incriminated Mr Howley to an extent greater than that which he had already admitted”.
The WRU found that Howley made an overall loss of £4,000 from the bets he placed during the time period under scrutiny and described his activity as a “hobby”, whilst adding that “we use the word hobby with some caution because it seems that a trigger for Mr Howley’s betting activity was a family tragedy involving the death of his sister”.
“We have no doubt that Mr Howley was entirely genuine about his feelings. He also confirmed to us that he had not bet at all since his suspension on September 16 and that with the help of a consultant psychologist he was confident that he would desist from betting in the future.”
It was decided that Howley’s degree of fault was “high” and having taken into account mitigating factors including his strong disciplinary record and the family tragedy and character references from Sir Ian McGeechan, Warren Gatland and Wales centre Johnathan Davies, an 18-month suspension was imposed.
Upon a request by Howley’s legal counsel to suspend the remainder of the ban due to him having already served three months, missed out on the World Cup and the likely adverse impact on his wellbeing of further time away from rugby, the panel chose to suspend nine months. Howley has the right to appeal.