Joey Barton was facing the end of his tumultuous playing career on Wednesday after admitting that an 18-month ban from all football activity by the Football Association for flouting betting rules was likely to force him to retire.
The Burnley midfielder – one of the most controversial British footballers of his generation – accepted an FA misconduct charge in which he was accused of placing 1,260 bets on football matches over a 10-year period to May last year, including games he was involved in. Professional footballers are banned from making any bets on their own sport.
Despite admitting to the offences, Barton, 34, said he plans to appeal against the length of the suspension after claiming there was nothing “untoward or suspicious” about his behaviour as well as stating that he felt “the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players”.
He also accused the FA of not taking “into proper consideration” the gambling addiction he says he has fought and which he said he now needs help to overcome, as he did in his battles with alcohol abuse and anger issues that have blighted his career. The former Manchester City, Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers midfielder also called on the governing body to reassess its relationship with gambling companies after condemning a culture that he feels promotes and encourages betting.
Burnley – who re-signed Barton in January in the knowledge he could face a ban – will await the outcome of an appeal before any decision is taken to terminate the player’s contract, which runs until the end of the season.
Barton and his lawyers are expected to scrutinise the FA’s written findings, which will be made public before the end of the week, before lodging an appeal against the ban and £30,000 fine by an independent regulatory commission.
The Telegraph understands there are no guarantees Barton’s suspension would be put on hold while he appeals.
In a wide-ranging 1,504-word statement in which he also published a full list of the 30 bets the FA deemed “most pertinent” to his case, Barton said: “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.
“Having consulted with my friends and lawyers, I have decided I will be appealing against the length of the ban. I hope that I shall be afforded a fair hearing by an independent appeal panel. If I am, we are confident that the sanction will be reduced to a fair one that both reflects the offences as well as the mitigating factors and the fact that there was nothing untoward or suspicious about the bets I made.”
Discussing “the scale of my football betting”, Barton said that, since 2004, he had a placed over 15,000 bets across a range of sports, 1,260 of which were on football. He held a Betfair account in his own name which was registered to his home address and “verified by my own passport”. His average bet was just over £150 while many were “for only a few pounds”.
It is understood the FA was tipped off about Barton’s activity by a betting company last September, which prompted months of investigation by the integrity unit within the governing body’s governance department and involved Barton being interviewed once a charge was brought.
Barton even placed bets on his own team to lose although he stressed that on the occasions that happened “I was not involved in the match-day squad for any of those games”. “I did not play,” he said. “I was not even on the bench. I had no more ability to influence the outcome than had I been betting on darts, snooker, or a cricket match in the West Indies”.
He added that betting on his own team to lose “was an expression of my anger and frustration at not being picked or being unable to play”. “I understand people will think that is childish and selfish and I cannot disagree with that”.
The 30 bets Barton published details of ended up costing the midfielder £3,183.90, five of which were in games he played. He placed three bets on Manchester City’s 2-1 Premier League defeat at home to Fulham on April 29, 2006, placing a £3 bet on himself to be the first goalscorer, which he lost, and betting against Georgios Samaras, his City team-mate, to score first which made him a £5 profit on a £5 stake. He also lost £600 backing City to win the match.
Barton also placed two bets totalling almost £750 on Newcastle’s FA Cup tie against Stevenage, in which he played, but lost his entire stake after Newcastle were beaten 3-1 by the fourth-tier club. Barton played the full 90 minutes and scored his team’s only goal.
The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football
Similarly eye-catching was Barton losing all nine bets he placed on Newcastle’s friendly game against PSV Eindhoven on Aug 8, 2008, all of which were on his own club to lose. Newcastle had none of their main strikers available and Barton bet on three specific scorelines, none of which included his team scoring. He lost £370 in total.
Barton said he accepted “that this is one more mess I got into because of my own behaviour” and said he would now seek help for his gambling addiction but he said he felt the FA largely ignored this despite him providing a “medical report about my problem”.
He also said that “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.”
Barton, who pointed out that Burnley are sponsored by Dafabet, added: “Surely they [the FA] need to accept there is a huge clash between their rules and the culture that surrounds the modern game, where anyone who watches or follows football on TV or in the stadia is bombarded by marketing, advertising and sponsorship by betting companies, and where much of the coverage now, on Sky for example, is intertwined with the broadcasters’ own gambling interests.”