Sean Dyche has questioned how Joey Barton could banned for 18 months for breaching betting rules when Eric Cantona received a suspension only half that length for kung-fu kicking a supporter.
The Burnley manager on Thursday sided with Barton’s claims that the Football Association’s punishment had been harsh as it emerged that the midfielder placed 1,260 bets worth more than £200,000 over a decade to May last year.
Barton has taken a drastic cut in his wages – believed to be around £20,000 a week - under the terms of the deal that saw him re-join Burnley in January after admitting to 35 breaches of the FA rule prohibiting players from betting on football.
Dyche accepted that Barton had flouted the rules and deserved to be punished but felt the ban looked severe compared to Cantona’s nine-month suspension for attacking a Crystal Palace supporter as a Manchester United player in 1995.
He also expressed hope that the governing body would now focus their efforts on weeding out divers and cheats as part of a wider clean-up of the game.
Speaking against the backdrop of an advertising board plastered with the name of Burnley’s shirt sponsor, dafebet, a betting company, Dyche said: “Joey feels it’s a bit harsh. He’s disappointed. We feel it’s a bit harsh. I don’t know how you balance these things in football. The legend that is Eric Cantona got a nine month ban and he kung-fu kicked someone.
“We know the rules and I must make that clear. There’s no intent other than his own personal gambling, no attempt to change games. Eighteen months seems a long time to me in lieu of some of the things I’ve seen in the game.
“The FA have a role and we respect that decision. They’re obviously showing strength in these decisions. I only assume and imagine they’re now going to move on to the cheating in the game, the constant diving, feigning injury, falling to the floor. I’m sure they'll move on to bigger picture and greater good.”
The FA published the written reasons behind Barton’s ban on Thursday and said it was the “shortest possible” suspension that could have been imposed given the “totality of his betting breaches”. Barton placed 1,260 bets worth £205,172, at a loss of £16,708.
He made 42 bets on 20 games which involved his own team. Of those 42 bets, 15 were on his team to lose. Of the 20 matches he did bet on, however, Barton played in only two of them. The FA said a “dismissive attitude to the rules” that prohibit betting were a factor behind the length of the ban and said that, while Barton’s gambling addiction “may have distorted his thinking in part … it is not a compete answer for this continued conduct.” The FA said they found a report on Barton’s addiction by consultant psychiatrist Dr Philip Hopley “unpersuasive”.
Barton has visited Gamblers’ Anonymous and has not placed a bet on football since the investigation into his behaviour began but he did admit to the FA commission that he had subsequently bet on other sports.