Why Do Footballers Keep Betting Resulting In Gambling Fines Or Bans?
In 2018 we published a piece about how the Football Association was ending its sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes on the back of getting tougher on players and clubs regarding the rules around betting that exist in football. Yet in the months since a whole host of footballers have been caught out when it comes to the FA’s rules on betting and have paid the price, either through bans or fines.
Given the sheer amount of money top footballers earn, with most earning more in a week than the average person could hope to earn in a year, why do they feel the need to flout the betting rules on such a consistent basis?
Those that only look at football and footballers in simplistic and clichéd terms would probably tell you that they’re too stupid not to make such errors, but is that a little bit unfair? After all, members of Mensa have had betting and alcohol addictions so it isn’t just as simple as saying those that drink too much or bet too often are stupid.
Is it perhaps more likely that the rules are too stringent? After all, it seems a touch hypocritical of the FA to refuse to allow players to have anything to do with betting companies when one sponsors the Football League with the blessing of that same FA. It’s a complicated business that is far from black and white.
The Case Of Daniel Sturridge
In July the Football Association confirmed that the former Liverpool player Daniel Sturridge would be banned from playing football for two weeks and fined £75,000 because he was found guilty of breaching the FA’s betting rules. That was on top of the fact that an independent commission dismissed charges that he was guilty of passing on insider information, which the FA plans to appeal.
They felt that a six month ban at least would be fitting, given what they felt was a ‘cynical determination’ to help people make money from his potential move away from Liverpool in January of 2018.
The panel making up the commission found Sturridge guilty of two charges, one of which was about giving his brother Leon insider information that encouraged Leon Sturridge to place a bet on the forward moving to the Spanish club Sevilla on loan.
In the end, the former Chelsea and Manchester City striker moved to West Bromwich Albion on loan, meaning any bet placed by his brother would have been a losing one. Even so, the former Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, declared the ruling to be a ‘mockery of the FA rules’. Some of the charges dismissed by the commission included the accusation that he’d passed on information about a possible move to Inter Milan and West Brom.
Sturridge A ‘Highly Principled’ Person
Part of the reason for the commission’s decision to give Daniel Sturridge the benefit of the doubt was that Dr Steve Peters, the highly rated psychologist who has worked with Ronnie O’Sullivan and British Cycling in the past, declared him to be a ‘a religious, highly principled and straightforward person’.
He was one of eleven witnesses that spoke on behalf of Sturridge, who his club at the time, Liverpool, confirmed had fully cooperated with the commission. They also appear to have taken his personal circumstances into account, with the player not part of the club’s first-team at the team and having problems with both a sponsor and his house in London.
In spot of the fact that Sturridge received a message from his agent, who is also his uncle, telling him to ‘stay out of squad’ as the reported interest from Inter Milan was real and the forward replying ‘Cool with me’, the striker claimed that the FA’s case was ‘overblown and misconceived’.
Instead, the England international claimed that the Football Association had ‘added two and two together and made 40’. Interestingly, both Alan Pardew, who was the West Brom manager at the time, and the then-Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez had been texting the player about moves rot their clubs. Why is the FA happier to crack down on perceived betting misconduct but not potential tapping up charges?
Yerry Mina Also Caught Out
Whilst it’s far from exclusively a problem for players on Merseyside, another football that got into trouble with the Football Association over its gambling rules was Everton’s Yerry Mina.
The defender was charged by the FA with misconduct after he was alleged to have breached the rules around betting regulations by appearing in an advert for a betting company in his native Colombia earlier in 2019. The defender joined Everton from Barcelona in the summer of 2018 and was charged by the FA for ‘participating in an advertisement for betting activity which is prohibited from engaging in’.
It didn’t take long for shouts of hypocrisy to be brandished at the Football Association, however, given that the reports into the matter all featured photos of Mina in his Everton kit that bears SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company, plastered on its front.
Why is it fine for teams to play in a kit that advertises a betting company on a weekly basis but it’s not alright for players to appear in adverts for gambling firms? The cynical person might suggest it’s because the FA gets a cut of money from sponsorship but they don’t get any money from individual appearances from players and they’re therefore less tolerant of them.
Why Does It Keep Happening?
It would be wrong to talk of instances of gambling from players in broad brushstrokes, given that there are countless different reasons why players would engage in something that they know is against the Football Association’s rules.
Joey Barton, for example, has declared himself to be a gambling addict and believes that at least 50% of top professionals are also guilty of placing bets on a regular basis. That is in stark contrast to Daniel Sturridge, who said that he has ‘categorically never gambled on football’ and does not ‘have the the type of personality that is drawn to adrenaline’.
The reality is that footballers have a lot of time to themselves, with some likely to get bored during that time. Combine boredom with the sort of money that they have to spend and it’s not hard to imagine why footballers might just struggle to remain on the right side of the FA’s rules and regulations. Yet there’s also the fact that those rules are regulations are perhaps a tad unfair at times.
It’s understandable why Daniel Sturridge should not be allowed to tell his family where he might be moving to, as this is no different to the same insider trading that is illegal in the business world. Isn’t Yerry Mina appearing in a betting advert an entirely different thing, however? No one stands to make money at anyone else’s expense, so is that just the Football Association annoyed that it can’t line its own pockets?