Burnley’s Joey Barton has been banned from football for 18 months after admitting FA misconduct charge relating to betting.
A statement from the FA reads, “it was alleged that between 26 March, 2006 and 13 May, 2016, he placed 1,260 bets on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, football matches or competitions in breach of FA Rule E8. Following the Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, the Burnley midfielder was also fined £30,000 and warned as to his future conduct.
Written reasons will follow in due course.”
Reacting to the ban, the former Manchester City midfielder says the ban will force him into an early retirement. Here is his full statement.
The FA have announced I am banned from all football for 18 months and fined £30,000 and costs for offences against The FA’s Betting Rules. I am very disappointed at the harshness of the sanction. The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football. To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question.
I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players. I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem. I’m disappointed it wasn’t taken into proper consideration. I think if the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet.
That all means this is not an easy environment in which to try to stop gambling, or even to encourage people within the sport that betting is wrong. It is like asking a recovering alcoholic to spend all his time in a pub or a brewery. If the FA is serious about tackling gambling I would urge it to reconsider its own dependence on the gambling industry. I say that knowing that every time I pull on my team’s shirt, I am advertising a betting company.
I say none of this to justify myself. But I do want to explain that sometimes these issues are more complicated than they seem.
As for the scale of my football betting, since 2004, on a Betfair account held in my own name, registered at my home address and verified by my own passport, with full transparency, I have placed over 15,000 bets across a whole range of sports. Just over 1,200 were placed on football and subject to the charges against me. The average bet was just over £150, many were for only a few pounds.
Raised at the hearing was that between 2004 and 2011 I placed a handful of bets on my own team to lose matches. I accept of course that this is against the rules, for the obvious reason that a player with an additional financial stake in the game might seek to change the course of it for his own personal gain. However I’d like to offer some context.
First, in every game I have played, I have given everything. I’m confident that anyone who has ever seen me play, or played with or against me, will confirm that to be the case. I am more aware than anyone that I have character issues that I struggle with, and my addictive personality is one of them, but I am a devoted and dedicated professional who has always given my all on the pitch.
Third, I should point out that the last of these bets against my own team was six years ago (and in a reserve game), when I was going through a particularly troubled period, and when the FA were not nearly as hard on gambling as they are now.
One thing I can state with absolute certainty – I have never placed a bet against my own team when in a position to influence the game, and I am pleased that in all of the interviews with the FA, and at the hearing, my integrity on that point has never been in question. I could not live with myself, nor face my team-mates or the fans of the clubs I played for, if they seriously thought I would bet on my team to lose a game whose outcome I could influence.
A ban of 18 months is longer than several bans handed to players who played in matches where they bet for their team to lose and – unlike me – were found to have had an ability to influence the games. The only players to be banned for 12 months or longer bet against their own teams and played in the matches in which they placed those bets. Players who did not play in the matches they placed the bets in have never been banned for longer than 6 months. I feel the ban is excessive in this context.
Throughout my career I am someone who has made mistakes and owned up to those mistakes and tried to learn from them. I intend to do that here. I accept that this is one more mess I got into because of my own behaviour. This episode has brought home to me that just as I had to face up to the need to get help to deal with alcohol abuse, and with anger, so now I need to get help for my issues with gambling, and I will do so.
I want to thank the Burnley FC board, management, players and staff for their faith and understanding, and their belief that I would play for them, and play well, even with this hanging over me, and I want to thank the Burnley fans for the support they have given me throughout. They have been brilliant.