On January 31 Ivan Toney scores for Brentford, as The Bees lose 2-3 to rivals Tottenham F.C. While Toney tries to get on a new scoring spree after serving his eight-month FA ban for betting on football, his case raises some serious questions regarding gambling among football players.
The friendly lads from the Gamblescope Research Team at gambescope.com were kind enough to do some research and get in touch with some bookies in the UK and worldwide to enlighten us.
1.Is Betting Popular Among Footballers in the UK?
Yes. The UK is known for its booming gambling culture, with 44% of adults engaged in such activities, including betting. Football players are no exception. They are even more tempted to try, since they feel they understand the sport from the inside, possess valuable contacts in other teams, or even have insider information regarding transfers, injuries, player performance, etc.
2.Is the FA Ban for Players on Betting on Football Effective?
No. There are dozens of ways to circumvent it. From asking one of your family members or relatives to open a betting account to finding a needy old man for a few quid to place bets for you. Many are bold enough to bet on football online under their real names while on the team bus and get away with this!
In 2014 when the current “no betting on football worldwide for players from Premier League to Level 7 leagues” rule got in effect, it was expected that up to 10000 players could face some kind of fine or ban. The result? 6 players in 2014-2015, 23 players in 2015-2016, 30 players in 2016-2017. You have to be famous enough to be chosen as a sacrificial lamb, place hundreds of bets or have someone to snitch on you to get caught.
3.What do Football Players Think About the FA Betting Rules?
Most don’t support them. And agree that the previous version of the rules that prohibited players from betting only on a match or competition they are taking part in was more just. The lack of support within the player community is one of the reasons why even after 10 years FA is still struggling with imposing the new rules.
4.Is it That Bad?
One may think that with 5-6 footballers out of every 22-man squad placing bets on their way to and from the game, there is just one step to things like collecting fixed yellow cards, conceding goals on purpose or arranging fixed matches.
Not at all, as the lads from Gamblescope found out! Most players think that betting on your league and your team is where the line should be drawn. Betting against your team, insider betting, arranging stuff like penalties, being sent off and such is generally frowned upon. Anyone trying such shenanigans will become a pariah within the squad and will be inevitably pushed out by peer pressure.
To conclude, we have a curious duality. On one hand, the strict anti-betting rules for footballers seem non-enforceable. On the other hand, the football player community restrains itself from going too wild betting-wise, to endanger the fairness and integrity of the competitions. Only time will tell how the situation will develop, although we anticipate FA to keep tightening the noose.