'Forces me into early retirement' - Joey Barton suspended from football for 18 months following betting charge
Joey Barton has been suspended from all football activity for 18 months with immediate effect after he admitted a Football Association misconduct charge related to betting.
Barton is alleged to have placed 1,260 bets on football matches between March 2006 and May 2013.
The 34-year-old midfielder started his career with Manchester City and has played for Newcastle, QPR, Marseille and Rangers. He also has one full England cap.
In January, he rejoined Burnley after a successful stint with the Premier League club in 2015/16 and has played 13 league games this campaign, scoring once.
Burnley have said Barton will appeal against the length of the ban.
In a lengthy statement released on his website, Barton says his 18-month ban from football for betting misconduct "effectively forces me into an early retirement".
He also revealed that between 2004 and 2011, he placed bets on his own team to lose, although added that he wasn't involved in the matchday squad for any of those games.
However, he did lay a bet on team-mate Georgios Samaras to score first in a game that both players started in for Man City in 2006.
As he commented on a punishment that also included a £30,000 fine, Barton admitted he is a gambling addict and tried to put some context on a ban that all-but ends the career of the troubled 34-year-old.
“I am very disappointed at the harshness of the sanction,” declared Barton. “The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football.
“To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question.
“I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players.
“I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem. I’m disappointed it wasn’t taken into proper consideration.
“I think if the FA is truly serious about tackling the culture of gambling in football, it needs to look at its own dependence on the gambling companies, their role in football and in sports broadcasting, rather than just blaming the players who place a bet.
“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.
“I say none of this to justify myself. But I do want to explain that sometimes these issues are more complicated than they seem.”
Barton also confirmed that he had bet on his own team to lose matches.
“Raised at the hearing was that between 2004 and 2011 I placed a handful of bets on my own team to lose matches,” he continued.
“I accept of course that this is against the rules, for the obvious reason that a player with an additional financial stake in the game might seek to change the course of it for his own personal gain. However I’d like to offer some context.
“First, in every game I have played, I have given everything. I’m confident that anyone who has ever seen me play, or played with or against me, will confirm that to be the case. I am more aware than anyone that I have character issues that I struggle with, and my addictive personality is one of them, but I am a devoted and dedicated professional who has always given my all on the pitch.
“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.
“Third, I should point out that the last of these bets against my own team was six years ago (and in a reserve game), when I was going through a particularly troubled period, and when the FA were not nearly as hard on gambling as they are now.
“One thing I can state with absolute certainty – I have never placed a bet against my own team when in a position to influence the game, and I am pleased that in all of the interviews with the FA, and at the hearing, my integrity on that point has never been in question.
“I could not live with myself, nor face my team-mates or the fans of the clubs I played for, if they seriously thought I would bet on my team to lose a game whose outcome I could influence.”