Yesterday the news broke that Joey Barton was banned for 18 months by the FA for breaching their betting regulations. Barton has since released a statement giving his side of the story which you can read here.
When reading this statement, it gave me something to think about and I’d like the reader to think about it also. Is the ban too harsh? Because I believe it is. And here is why.
First, many of the bets in place were over 10 years ago when the rules were much more relaxed when it came to gambling in football. Meaning players could get away with most betting except against their own teams. Now Barton did bet against his own teams on numerous occasions but per his statement, it was only when he was not playing he did it out of pettiness. Now this is daft as he should never bet against his employers and that is the main issue and think he should have been punished for that. But again, the length of the ban is too severe for the crime.
In addition, in my opinion this makes the FA look like complete and utter hypocrites. For example, with Bartons ban it looks like the FA are getting tough on gambling in football however 10 Premier League teams principle sponsors are betting agencies.
Plus, the lower professional leagues (Championship, League 1 and League 2) are sponsored by the gambling branch of their principle TV right holder, this coupled with the number of advertisements from bookmakers around the grounds on the advertising boards next to the pitch makes it very hard to take this ban seriously. So, if the FA are truly set on stamping footballers gambling out of the game then they must stop accepting money from betting agencies or it makes them look like hypocrites.
Finally, looking at the length of this ban, it made me think about other bans for more serious crimes that footballers have committed. 3 major examples (both under FA jurisdiction) spring to mind. The first is Luis Suarez who was found guilty of biting an opposition player in the premier league. On this occasion, he was given a 10-match ban which spanned April to September due to the period between footballing seasons. Is gambling worse than Biting? I don’t think it is.
The same player also found guilty of racially abusing an opposition player not long before the biting incident and was given an 8-game ban which spanned December to February, and at the time I said that is ban was a joke because of how short it was. Another incident of racist abuse in English football is when John Terry from was banned for 4 matches for racially abusing a member of the opposition team.
Is gambling worse than racism? Definitely not.
So why does Barton receive a ban 6x the length of the first racism ban? I don’t know, however, I would like to think this sets the standard for the next racism or homophobia charge that they will receive a ban that suits the crime and not a slap on the wrists.
by Sam Marsh