Whilst everyone was busy laughing at Joey Barton’s 18-month ban, the midfielder was making a salient point: football has a dangerous relationship with the gambling industry.
Of the 20 teams currently playing in the Premier League, half of them have betting agencies adorning their shirts – in 2012/13, that tally stood at a quarter.
The gambling industry currently invests £36.3million in shirt sponsorship, over 16% of the total shirt sponsorship money currently invested in the division.
Considering all the other money they pump in alongside putting their names on shirts and the entire industry is heavily invested in football; there’s nothing safe about it.
Every single advert is one that encourages gambling on every aspect of the game: cards, corners, fouls, goals; there’s a market for everything and the temptation is a strong one.
Of course Barton broke the rules and should be punished. But that shouldn’t also stop examination of overlap between football and gambling
— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) 26 April 2017
Just ask Wayne Shaw and Sutton United; for a man who had spent three days a week sleeping on the club couch in the build-up to the clash with Arsenal, the chance to raise a few extra pounds was too strong to resist.
Given the disparity between the money at the top of the game and that at the bottom, someone is likely to repeat his antics. Clubs in comparable similar situations to Sutton United will also follow suit.
They happily abandoned their usual sponsorship to sign up with a betting agency and make easy money from that tie with the Gunners. Similar circumstances will entice others to follow their path, regardless of the consequences.
The temptation to take it further will be there for some. While there was no evidence of match-fixing in Barton’s case, the power is there to do it.
It can even be argued that the relationship between football and gambling is almost inviting it to happen. The fact is that the more the betting industry puts in, the more it will expect in return.
That kind of deal can easily lead to the type of wide-scale corruption that has tarnished other sports. It’s a slippery, downward path that football currently finds itself standing at the top of it.
Barton clearly deserves a ban but he makes a legitimate point about @FA (and clubs’) unhealthily close relationship with betting companies.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) 26 April 2017
There’s also the danger that the relationship could be about to come to an end. The government are already mulling over plans to ban gambling adverts during live sporting events.
It could easily happen as well. There’s constant talk of banning alcohol adverts to protect children and it’s not a far step to banning gambling adverts also.
If that were to happen, football would find itself significantly out of pocket. Half of the teams in the Premier League in fact. That’s risky business and no doubt the big wigs have a plan should it happen.
The truth of the matter is inescapable, though; football has a dangerous relationship with the betting industry.
Whilst it’s bringing in the money, nobody cares, especially those in power. If incidents like this Barton one become more frequent in future, however, it will be interesting to see how that standpoint changes.