Professional footballer Joey Barton has said at least half of players based in the UK are breaking English Football Association (FA) rules regarding betting.
In April 2017, Barton was handed an 18-month suspension after he admitted to a misconduct charge related to betting.
An FA investigation found the midfielder had placed 1,260 bets between March 26, 2006, and May 13, 2016.
Barton, who later had his ban cut by five months after an appeal, has now spoken out about the matter, saying gambling is “culturally ingrained” in English football and many more players are betting on matches.
The FA has strict rules in place regarding players in the top eight leagues betting on games, but Barton said at least 50% of “playing staff” regularly breach these restrictions and place wagers.
“I think, and I’m being conservative, I think 50% of the playing staff would be taken out [banned], because it’s culturally ingrained,” Barton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I had to be sanctioned, because I stepped out of the boundaries of the rules; so there’s no doubt about it, but the FA think I’m the only footballer who has ever bet on football ever.
“But the reality of it says that that is not the case, I’ve seen [it] with my own eyes.
“I’d place bets for other footballers on my accounts; I’d say, on a conservative estimate, being in professional dressing rooms where there’s been readily available cash for over 15 years, you’d have half the league out.”
Barton also called on the FA to review its current rules, saying it is important to distinguish between gambling restrictions and match-fixing regulations.
“The [gambling] rules have become more and more stringent; ultimately we’ve ended up now with a totalitarian kind of ban – no football betting anywhere,” Barton said.
“Where we’ve got it wrong is we’ve got the gambling rules mixed up with the match-fixing rules.
“Because match-fixing is fundamentally wrong and challenges the integrity of the sport.
“I think culturally betting is acceptable; there’s nothing wrong with betting if it’s controlled – it’s when it becomes out of control and people bet beyond their means.”
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