Joey Barton's 18-month ban from footballing activity was the "shortest possible sanction" available due to the extent of the Burnley player's gambling, the Football Association has ruled.
Barton placed 1,260 bets over a 10-year period between March 2006 and May 2016 with a total stake of £205,172.79 - making a loss of £16,708.29 - and was fined £30,000, in addition to his suspension, which the 34-year-old midfielder said effectively forces him into early retirement.
In written reasons published by the Independent Regulatory Commission on Thursday, the FA noted Barton had previously been banned for one match for betting breaches in Scotland, which was taken into account when deciding how the former Manchester City and Newcastle United player should be punished.
"The betting breaches are so serious that there must be a sporting sanction for this conduct," the FA ruled. "Balancing all of the matters summarised above, the evidence heard and read and the arguments the commission considered, the commission concluded that the shortest possible sanction to reflect the totality of his betting breaches was a suspension from football and footballing activity for a period of 18 months. In doing so it had regard to the Scottish ban.
"As for his age, and the fact he is coming towards the end of his career, the commission makes these points. He has enjoyed a full career. He has been breaching the betting rules for a substantial part of that career. Had he been apprehended and charged earlier, the result - almost certainly - would have been an immediate playing suspension (and all the consequences) . He has avoided that and enjoyed the fruits. He cannot now pray in aid chronology to avoid a meaningful sanction.
"Further, a younger player charged earlier in their career might well have a legitimate sense of grievance if s/he loses part of their career to suspension, but an older player (by virtue of that fact alone) does not. In the commission's judgement, the suspension must lie where it falls.
"At the end of the exercise each member of the Commission stood back and reflected on the sanction. By whatever route it was arrived at, are we, as individual members, satisfied that the sanction is reasonable, proportionate and, in a single word, fair? Each member concluded that it was."
Barton has confirmed he intends to appeal against the length of his ban and, speaking to reporters before the release of the FA's written ruling, Burnley boss Sean Dyche described the suspension as "harsh" and called on football authorities to clamp down on cheating in the game.
"We know the rules. Joey knew the rules, let's make that clear," Dyche said. "Everyone knows you don't gamble on football when you're in football.
"There's no trying to swerve what the incident is. It's the outcome of that and we fully accept the FA's decision. But I must make it clear, as Joey has in his statement, his integrity is clear. There's no pointed fingers at anything other than his personal bets on a game. No angles of consortium betting, no angles of trying to change results - just his personal betting on a game.
"When you look at some of the other incidents down the years in football - time-wise or games-wise - I still think it's a little bit harsh. The legend that is Eric Cantona got a nine-month ban [for kicking a Crystal Palace supporter]. There’'s no intent other than his own personal gambling, no attempt to change games. 18 months seems a long time to me.
"The FA have a role and we respect that decision. They're obviously showing strength in these decisions. The overriding thing I hope is the FA seem to be gripping hold of these things and I can only presume they move onto the cheating in the game, which I have spoken about endlessly.
"I presume the powers-that-be will start looking at that, using video evidence and retrospective banning. I think it's never been more needed than now. I think you call it simulation but I like to be a bit more blunt and call it the truth, which is cheating."