Brentford are facing up to the prospect of losing their top goalscorer Ivan Toney for a prolonged period of time, with the striker set to be given a ban for breaking the Football Association‘s betting rules.
The 26-year-old was charged with 232 rule breaches in November followed by a further 30 in December and is understood to have accepted many of the offences, although has contested others. Toney committed the breaches between 2017 and 2021, during which time he represented a variety of different clubs including Newcastle and Brentford.
It is understood that Toney and Brentford expect a ban to be forthcoming although it is unclear at this moment when that punishment may come into effect and for how long he will be unable to play for. Sky Sports News have reported that Toney could be banned for up to six months while an independently appointed commission will decide his fate.
Being without Toney for a significant period of time would represent an enormous blow to Brentford given he has scored 14 goals in 21 Premier League games this season. Only Manchester City’s Erling Haaland (with 27) and Harry Kane (18) have outscored Toney in 2022-23. The Bees are also in contention to record a top-half finish and could even qualify for Europe.
Toney has questioned the FA’s handling of information relating to his case, calling on the governing body to conduct a “leak inquiry” to find out how information has been passed to the media. The Daily Mail were the first to report that Toney had accepted some of the charges against him.
“I was shocked and disappointed to see press speculation yesterday and today about the FA investigation process concerning me after I have been told by the FA that it is a confidential process until any decision has been made,” he said on Instagram.
“It is especially disturbing for me to read that the FA is saying I shall be banned from football for six months before there has even been a hearing, and it does make me worried about the process.
“My lawyers will be writing to The FA to request that they conduct a leak inquiry as this is the second time stories have appeared in the newspapers – the last time was just before the selection of the England World Cup squad.”
Toney is not the first high-profile player to have fallen foul of the FA’s stringent gambling rules.
In December 2020, Newcastle right-back Kieran Trippier was handed a 10-week suspension while playing for Atletico Madrid for giving out information over his move from Spurs to the La Liga club in 2019.
Ex-Premier League footballer Joey Barton, who now manages Bristol Rovers, was banned for 18 months later reduced to 13 months in 2017, after admitting to placing 1,260 bets over a 10-year period.
Footballers, managers and staff members in the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Championship, the Vanarama National League (including North and South divisions) and the Isthmian league are prohibited from placing any bets related to football, as per law E8 of the FA’s guidelines.
The ban extends to any match in England or abroad, regardless of whether or not a player or staff is involved, and includes other markets related to transfers, managerial appointments or team selections. Players can also be charged for providing insider information that would not otherwise be known in the public domain.
The FA’s betting charges against Toney have brought football’s relationship with the gambling industry into sharp focus once more.
With gambling advertisement and sponsorship so prevalent in the game, some observers have accused English football’s stakeholders of hypocrisy and “having their cake and eating it”.
“I think it just says everything that you need to know about gambling and football in that it basically wants to have its cake and eat it,” James Grimes, the lead co-ordinator of Gambling With Lives’ Big Step campaign, which aims to eradicate all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, told i.
“It wants to rake in money to promote online casinos in front of millions of young fans whilst coming down hard on footballers who inevitably gamble.
“If you have footballers that are forced to endorse addictive products on their shirts, play in stadiums or compete for trophies that are named after gambling companies then inevitably footballers will gamble because they are human and that environment eventually impacts people.”