By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been suspended from the game for 18 months with immediate effect after admitting to an FA misconduct charge over betting on matches.
Barton, who said he will appeal the length of his ban, was charged with placing 1,260 bets on football matches or competitions from 26 March, 2006, to 13 May, 2016, in breach of FA rules which outlaw gambling on games.
The FA said in a statement that the 34-year-old was suspended from "all football activity" with immediate effect, fined 30,000 pounds and warned as to his future conduct.
There was no suggestion that Barton was involved in match-fixing.
In a statement, Barton, who says he has struggled with an addiction to gambling, noted that in a "handful" of cases he had bet on his own club to lose games but only when he was not selected to play for the team.
He said that since 2004 he had made over 15,000 bets across a whole range of sports with about 1,200 placed on football and that his betting account did not attempt to hide his identity.
"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," he said in a statement.
"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," said the midfielder, who was involved in violent incidents earlier in his career.
"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," he said.
In his lengthy statement Barton also pointed out the heavy involvement of the gambling industry in British football where bookmakers act as sponsors at several levels.
"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," he said.
The former Manchester City and Newcastle United midfielder, who made one appearance for England in 2007, helped Burnley win promotion to the Premier League last season and returned to the club in January after a brief spell with Glasgow Rangers.
Burnley are 16th in the league standings, five points above the relegation zone with four games left to play.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)