Joey Barton’s ban for gambling on football was ‘shortest possible’, says FA

Paul MacInnes and Paul Wilson
Joey Barton has said he will appeal the Football Association’s decision to hand him an 18-month suspension from football. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Football Association has published its written reasons for banning Joey Barton on betting charges, revealing the player’s 18-month suspension was the “shortest possible” it could consider.

The 34-year-old has claimed that the suspension, a punishment for 35 breaches of the FA rule prohibiting footballers from betting on the outcome of matches, is likely to end his career. The FA’s regulatory commission has revealed it took Barton’s claims into consideration but ruled against them, observing “the suspension must lie where it falls”.

The judgment read: “Balancing the evidence heard and read and the arguments the Commission considered, the Commission concluded 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.

“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 judgment, the suspension must lie where it falls.”

The Commission also observed it had taken into account Barton’s submission he was a gambling addict, and accepted those claims, but it did not merit suspending any of the sanction. “The totality of the offending is so serious as to merit an immediate suspension of the length determined,” it said.

Further details revealed in the judgment include the fact Barton made 42 bets on 20 games which involved his own team, from a total of 1,620. Of those 42 bets, 15 were on his team to lose. Of the 20 matches he did bet on Barton played in only two.

The judgment also records that Barton frequently cited his own ignorance of the rules as mitigation for his offences. At one point he claimed he was as familiar with betting rules as he was with rules on refereeing. “You know, you kind of pay a passing glance at them, but no more, no less,” Barton was recorded as having said. He has announced his intention to appeal against the length of the suspension.

Sean Dyche has questioned the severity of Barton’s ban, pointing out Eric Cantona got half the punishment for kung-fu kicking a spectator.

Burnley are not backing him in his appeal. His contract at Turf Moor is up at the end of the season and a financial settlement has been reached in advance bearing in mind the club knew from the start of the season that disciplinary action was impending but Dyche admitted he had some sympathy with the player.

“He feels 18 months is a bit harsh, and so do we,” the Burnley manager said. “I don’t know how you balance these things in football. The legend that is Eric Cantona only got a nine-month ban for his assault on a fan, so 18 months seems a long time to me. We know the rules, I must make that clear, and if they were broken the FA have a role and we respect that. But there is no intent here other than his own personal gambling, no attempt to change games or fix results.

“The FA obviously want to show they mean business and demonstrate strength in these decisions. I can only assume they are going to be just as forceful when they take steps to eradicate all the cheating that goes on in the game, all the diving and falling to the floor. I’m sure they will soon be moving on to the bigger picture.”

Dyche felt it was worthwhile having Barton back at the club after his short and unhappy spell with Rangers, and as both parties went into the deal with their eyes open there is no room for sentiment over an inevitable outcome. “I just told Joey to look after his family – we both knew it would come to this,” Dyche said. “He doesn’t need support, he’s a man, not a boy. He knows about professional football.

“I think we were both taken aback a little by the harshness of the ban but once the dust has settled Joey will be fine.”

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