Burnley midfielder and one-time England international Joey Barton has been banned from soccer for 18 months by the F.A. today after an investigation revealed he had bet on 1,260 matches from 2006 to 2013, including at least five games in which he himself played. Barton released a statement owning up to what he called his “addiction to gambling” while also decrying the length of the ban.
The F.A. has yet to release a written explanation of its findings, but the statement the 34-year-old Barton posted to his personal website goes into some of the specifics of his case. Barton explains that he did in fact make those 1,260 bets on various soccer matches, as part of some 15,000 bets he made on various sporting events with a Betfair account registered in his own name. “The average bet was just over £150,” Barton writes, “[and] many were for only a few pounds.”
Of most concern are bets that Barton placed on matches that involved his own teams over the years. Some of these included matches Barton himself was a participant in, with others being games Barton was not in the side. Barton—who has played for Manchester City, Newcastle United, and Queens Park Rangers—makes sure to point out that while he did at times bet on his own teams to lose, he only did so when he personally was not involved in the matches in question:
Second, on the few occasions where I placed a bet on my own team to lose, I was not involved in the match day squad for any of those games. I did not play. 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. I should add that on some of those occasions, my placing of the bet on my 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.
Barton neglects to mention in his written statement that he also bet on matches he did play in. According to the spreadsheet of the bets he placed on his own teams, which he posted at the bottom of his statement, Barton put a number of bets on two different matches in which he was a starter: the first being an April 28, 2006 Premier League match between his Manchester City and Fulham, the second an F.A. Cup match between Newcastle and lower-league club Stevenage.
Barton placed a total of three bets on the City-Fulham match: £5 against the proposition that his City teammate Georgios Samaras would be the game’s first goalscorer (which he won), £3 on himself as the match’s first goalscorer (which he also lost), and £600 that City would beat Fulham (Fulham won). Barton had two bets on the Newcastle-Stevenage match: £497.50 for Newcastle to win outright and £250 that Newcastle would be leading at both halftime and full time. Stevenage won the match, so Barton lost both bets.
Of the 30 bets Barton revealed the details of in the spreadsheets he posted, the midfielder only won three. He wagered £3,682.50 in total across those 30 bets, and came away with losses of £3,183.90.
In his statement, Barton accepts responsibility for his actions and promises to address his gambling and other problems. “This episode has brought home to me that just as I had to face up to the need to get help to deal with alcohol abuse, and with anger, so now I need to get help for my issues with gambling, and I will do so.” He does, however, take issue with what he believes is the overly punitive nature of the ban, and all so points to what he believes to be some hypocrisy on the F.A.’s part:
Given the money in the game, and the explosion in betting on sport, I understand why the rules have been strengthened, and I also accept that I have been in breach of them. I accept too that the FA has to be seen to lead on this issue. But surely they need to accept there is a huge clash between their rules and the culture that surrounds the modern game, where anyone who watches 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.
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. It is like asking a recovering alcoholic to spend all his time in a pub or a brewery. If the FA is serious about tackling gambling I would urge it to reconsider its own dependence on the gambling industry. I say that knowing that every time I pull on my team’s shirt, I am advertising a betting company.
Barton says he will appeal the length of the ban.