Ivan Toney charged for breaching FA Rule E8 – What are the FA’s rules on betting?
On 16 November 2022, the Football Association (“the FA”) confirmed that it had charged Brentford FC player Ivan Toney with misconduct in relation to alleged breaches of the FA’s betting rules. Mr Toney is alleged to have breached FA Rule E8 232 times between 25 February 2017 and 23 January 2021, and he has until 24 November 2022 to provide his response to the charges.
There is a wide range of different types of bets that can be placed on football, including the full time result of a particular match, which player will score the first goal, and what team a player may transfer to. However, the FA Rules prevent players, managers, match officials and other Participants from placing bets, using inside information, and match fixing. For more information on what amounts to misconduct in football and who the rules apply to (i.e. a Participant), click here.
What are the FA Rules on Betting?
In accordance with FA Rule E8.1, Participants are not permitted to bet (directly or indirectly) or cause any person to bet on the result or progress of a football match (e.g. number of corners, cards, development of score) or competition; or any other matter concerning or related to football anywhere in the world, including: the transfer of players, employment of managers, team selection or disciplinary matters.
A Participant will be in breach of FA Rule E8.2 if they provide another person any information relating to football which they have obtained by virtue of his or her position within the game and which is not publicly available at the time.
However, FA Rule E8.3 provides a defence to such a charge if a Participant can establish that the information was provided in circumstances where they did not know, and could not reasonably have known, that the information would be used by the other person for or in relation to betting.
Further, under FA Rule E8.4, a Participant shall not bet, either directly or indirectly, or instruct, cause or enable any person to bet on:-
- The result or progress of a football match or competition in which the Participant (a) is participating or has participated in that season; or (b) has any influence whether directly or indirectly; or
- Any other matter concerning any Club participating any league Competition where the Participant is participating in or has participated in during that season (e.g. transfers of players, employment of managers, team selection or disciplinary matters)
How is a breach of FA Rule E8 determined?
The burden of proof is on the FA to prove on the balance of probabilities that the Participant charged has acted in breach of FA Rule E8. Similarly, for the defence under FA Rule E8.3 to be successful, the Participant must prove on balance of probability that they provided the inside information in circumstances where they did not know and could not reasonably have known that the information would be used for or in relation to betting.
A historic example – Kieran Trippier and the Commission’s approach
The facts and legal considerations
In May 2020, various misconduct charges were brought by the FA against Kieran Trippier in respect of alleged breaches of Rule E8 carried out in July 2019. It was alleged that Mr Trippier provided inside information in respect of his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur FC to Atlético Madrid, which was subsequently used by his friend, Oliver Hawley, to place various bets.
Throughout the 2018/19 season, Mr Trippier suffered injury problems and began to realise that Tottenham Hotspur FC might sell him at the end of the season. Mr Trippier would discuss his footballing future from time to time with some of his friends, including Mr Hawley. For example, on 5 July 2019, Mr Trippier exchanged various WhatsApp messages with Mr Hawley in which he said he was due to meet the manager of Tottenham Hotspur FC to discuss his future with the club and that he hoped he would get a move to Italy or Spain.
On 11 July 2019, Mr Hawley sent a WhatsApp message to Mr Trippier which read “6/1 Atletico Madrid”. Just under 6 minutes later Mr Trippier replied with an emoji showing 3 laughing faces. He then sent 2 messages in quick succession which he subsequently deleted. Later on that same day, Mr Hawley placed 2 further bets on Mr Trippier being transferred to Atlético Madrid.
The FA sought to rely on the deleted messages to prove that Mr Trippier had provided inside information to Mr Hawley before he placed the bets and that he deleted the messages to cover up that he had provided such information. Mr Trippier said that he did not recall the content of the deleted messages, but that they would not have been about his transfer to Atlético Madrid as nothing had happened with the club at that point (therefore, there was no inside information to impart at that time). The FA’s Regulatory Commission (“the Commission”) was not persuaded that the FA had proved that Mr Trippier had provided inside information to Mr Hawley on or prior to 11 July and the charge was therefore dismissed.
The Commission went on to consider whether, in the event that inside information was provided to Mr Hawley in the deleted messages, Mr Trippier would be able to rely on the Rule E8.3 defence. In the Commission’s view, the “6/1 Atletico Madrid” message showed Mr Trippier that Mr Hawley “had looked at the odds offered on that event occurring and was drawing attention to his knowledge of them”. In its written reasons, the Commission stated that Mr Trippier “should have appreciated that there was a real chance that [Mr Hawley] would bet or, for that matter, already had bet on his transfer and, at the very least, he should have sent a message to [Mr Hawley] informing him that betting on his transfer would make him liable for an infringement of the FA Rules (he having provided [Mr Hawley] with inside information) and that [Mr Hawley] should not bet on his transfer”. The Commission concluded that if they were wrong on their assessment of the deleted messages and that they did contain inside information, Mr Trippier would have provided that information minutes after being alerted to the possibility that Mr Hawley might bet on the transfer, and therefore could not possibly discharge the burden of proving that he could not reasonably have known that Mr Hawley would bet.
Whilst the FA failed to prove the charge relating to the 11 July 2019 messages, the Commission found that it had successfully proved 4 of the other charges that it had brought against Mr Trippier for a breach of Rule E8.
The sanctions for the breaches of Rule E8
In considering what sanctions to impose against Mr Trippier, the Commission adopted the view that “a sanction may be imposed which has the combined aims of punishing the offender, deterring him and others from offending and protecting the integrity of the sport always provided that the sanction remains a proportionate response to the offending in question”. Mr Trippier was suspended from all football and football-related activity for 10 weeks and fined the sum of £70,000.
The Commission considered that the fact that Mr Trippier’s “offending spanned no more than 4 days and it occurred at a time when he was experiencing a difficult time due to injuries and uncertainty about this future” was a mitigating factor.
What will happen to Mr Toney?
Given the time period that Mr Toney is alleged to have acted in breach of FA Rule E8 (almost 4 years), if the charges are proved, unlike with Mr Trippier, the time period is highly unlikely to be a mitigating factor that the Commission will rely on in reaching whatever sanctions it imposes.
For further context, some other outcomes of the FA’s disciplinary action against players are as follows:-
In 2019, the FA brought various charges against Daniel Sturridge for disclosing inside information to family members regarding a transfer away from his club at the time, Liverpool FC, and on two separate occasions he instructed his brother to bet £1,000 on his moving to Sevilla. The Commission determined that the appropriate sanctions were a 6 weeks suspension and a fine of £75,000. However, the FA appealed these sanctions on the basis that they were “unduly lenient as to be unreasonable”.
The Appeal Board found that “such flagrant breaches of the Rules called for sanctions which combined
punishment, deterrence and prevention. They also called for sanctions which made it clear to the public that the Regulatory Commission was intent upon protecting the integrity of the sport”. The Appeal Board therefore ordered that Mr Sturridge be suspended from all football and football-related activity for 4 months and fined the sum of £150,000.
In 2016, Joey Barton was charged by the FA for misconduct in respect of 1260 bets that were placed over a period of 10 years, including 15 bets that were placed on his own team to lose (which was considered by the commission to be an aggravating factor). Mr Barton pleaded guilty to the misconduct charges, and therefore the decision made by the Commission related only to the sanctions that were to be imposed. Mr Barton received a suspension from all football and football-related activity for 18 months and a fine of £30,000. Mr Barton appealed against this sanction on the basis that the period of suspension was excessive.
Evidence was presented to the Commission by an expert psychiatrist that indicated that Mr Barton had a moderate to severe addiction to the process of placing a bet (although it was not the money aspect he was addicted to, so he could impose a limit). The Commission did not find this evidence persuasive. However, the Appeal Board considered that there was “no reason why that evidence was found unpersuasive, in the absence of countervailing evidence. It was a crucial part of Mr Barton’s case as it would be for any addiction case”. The Appeal Board therefore found that it was not reasonable for the Commission to reject this evidence in respect of the degree of impairment to Mr Barton’s control, and accordingly considered it appropriate to reduce his suspension by 5 months (but there was no change to the sum of the fine).
How we can help