Betting in football – Was The FA’s decision on Joey Barton a fair one?

Man holding football and money in his hands
Published: Wednesday, 17 May 2017. Written by Philip Hutchinson, Tiran Gunawardena No Comments

Burnley FC midfielder Joey Barton is the latest high profile footballer to be sanctioned by The Football Association (“The FA”) under its Rules and Regulations (“FA Rules”) relating to betting. Barton, who was charged with having placed 1,260 bets on football matches between March 2006 and May 2013, has been given an 18 month ban from all football activities by The FA and fined £30,000.[1]

This ban (subject to any successful appeal) means that Barton cannot play football (which includes training and appearing in reserve team matches) until he is 36 years old, casting doubts over whether his professional playing career is now at an end. Indeed, in a statement released by Mr Barton in the aftermath of The FA’s decision, the player stated that the decision “effectively forces [him] into an early retirement from playing football.[2]

This article examines The FA’s Rules on betting by football players and their application to Mr Barton’s case. Was The FA’s decision fair, too harsh, or too lenient? It also touches upon the uncomfortable interplay that exists between cases like Mr Barton’s and the modern-day relationship that football has with betting companies. Specifically, it looks at:

  • The FA Rules on betting by players

  • Educational awareness on betting in football

  • The bets placed by Mr Barton

  • The length of ban for breaching The FA Rules – what is proportionate?

  • The Commission’s approach to Mr Barton’s sanction

  • Mr Barton’s “personal circumstances

  • Comparison to other similar cases

  • Comment

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About the Author

Tiran Gunawardena

Tiran Gunawardena

Tiran Gunawardena is a Senior Associate (Australian Qualified) in the London sports law team at Mills & Reeve LLP.

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Philip Hutchinson

Philip Hutchinson

Senior Associate, Mills & Reeve

Phil is a Senior Associate at Mills & Reeve LLP specialising in sports litigation and sports regulatory matters, with a particular focus on the football industry. Phil has worked on a number of high profile integrity/match fixing and doping cases across a variety of sports and also regularly advises football clubs, agents and players on transfers, most notably where work permits are required. He also has extensive experience in representing agents, players and managers in both the High Court and FA Rule K arbitration cases. Phil is the only individual in the West Midlands to be ranked as a “Next Generation Sports Lawyer” (Legal 500 2019) and a “Rising Star” (Legal 500 2020), who also describe him as “emerging as a confident and capable litigator”. Phil speaks German and is also a member of the Sport Resolutions Pro Bono Panel.

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