From the birth of football, betting on the sport has always been a large part of the game for spectators. However, in more recent years, there has been controversy brewing regarding players placing bets on football matches. This leads us to the question; Should footballers betting on football be banned?
According to the Professional Football Association (PFA), the rules for footballers read ‘You are not allowed to place ANY bet on ANY football, ANYWHERE’. Although the PFA rules may appear to be self-explanatory, a lot of professional footballers who play at a high standard have been caught in difficult situations when it comes to breaching these betting rules.
After being caught betting on matches, many big names have retired, such as Joey Barton, Matt Le Tissier and Martin Demichelis. They have all been banned from placing any bets – no matter the sport. However, being caught does not necessarily mean the end of the player’s career. Kieran Trippier, an England international defender, a player who is currently in the prime of his career, was banned from betting after he breached the PFA betting rules.
In June 2019, Trippier was on the brink of moving clubs with a transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Atlético Madrid. He had hinted at this forthcoming prospect in a WhatsApp group with his friends in it – and indirectly encouraged them to bet on the transfer. He was quoted in the group chat saying “Lump on it”.
After a thorough FA inspection, during which the player gave in his phone as evidence, Trippier was ultimately given a 10-week suspension from all sports activities, penalised with a £70,000 fine, and required to pay costs from the bets. Although, in the long term, this controversy has not affected Trippers career, he still had to pay the penalty.
Trippier was not banned from all bets and is currently still playing in the top flight of English football, so why is there a ban on Footballers betting on games if it does not affect them in the long term?
A more contemporary example of a footballer breaching the rules is Brentford Football Club’s, Ivan Toney. In December 2022, Toney had been found to have allegedly breached 232 betting rules. The Premier League attacker released a statement on Twitter.
The Football Association gave Toney a limited time period in which he had to respond to the allegations, Toney posted on Twitter saying “I have been assisting the Football Association with their enquiries and will not be making any comment until such investigation has reached its conclusion.”
A few months have passed but Toney has not been sanctioned as the investigation is still underway, but on December 20, 2022, the FA added a further 30 alleged breaches to the inquiry.
However, even if he gets punished will it be reasonable enough of a sanction? Some may even argue that these footballers do not even deserve punishment.
One of the most obvious and famous incidents of betting rules being broken by a footballer was lower English tier football club Sutton United’s reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw. Social media highlighted Shaw after being drawn against Premier League titans Arsenal in the FA Cup, people where were referring to him as “severely overweight to be a footballer”.
By the time the fixture came round Shaw was known by the viewers, the cameras where on him throughout the night. As the Sutton United players where losing the game to Arsenal, Shaw was to be found on the sidelines, tucking into a pie on the bench.
Although it was amusing for the fans, it was found later that The Sun newspaper had released special odds for their bets for the Sutton United goalkeeper to eat a pie. It was all too very convenient, and after further investigations it was found that the odds were deliberately done in coalition with Shaw. Although he was found to be involved in this there was no punishment as he came to a mutual agreement to leave the club.
With the footballers who have been mentioned and the consequences that been described it’s almost as if there is no need to have these rules on the betting. There is a fine line between match fixing and betting, the examples mentioned have not affected the outcome on any football game results. If this is the case, then why are sanctions nothing but a slap on the wrist?
There are bigger bans and consequences for match fixing so why have betting rules in place if there is no way for the footballers to fully manipulate a game without it becoming match fixing. If a player puts a bet on a team in a different country can it really affect the outcome of the result?
Betting is a huge part of the sporting world, it feels almost unfair to not let those who give us something to bet on, the same rights as the viewers. There are other specific rules that counter the most obvious breaches of law that comes with footballers affecting football games with betting, therefore it does not seem as necessary to have a complete shutdown on footballers betting.
This season in the Premier League 40% of the teams have a gambling company as their sponsor. These clubs are; Bournemouth, Everton, Fulham, Leeds, Southampton, West Ham, Ivan Toney’s current club Brentford, and Newcastle United, which is Kieran Tripper’s current team.
These players promote betting for the club they play for yet they face being punished when participating in betting activities themselves. This seems unjustified, and with mobile betting becoming as huge as it has over the past few years, betting for these sports stars almost seems to be all around them.
Maybe in the near future we will see a change to the rules for footballers placing bets, but as it currently stands there is a tight control on what a footballer can bet on, but the actions taken afterwards are not as drastic as one would believe they would be.
Featured image by Thomas Serer via Unsplash CC.