Betting on Barton? It would be a mistake to count him out

December 28 – Perenially challenged, and challenging, midfielder Joey Barton has been charged by the English FA of betting on 1,260 games over the last decade and in breach of the FA’s rules on betting.

Barton, who left Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers last month after a training ground bust-up, has agreed a deal in principle to the end of the season to return Burnley where he was the club’s player of the year last season in their successful promotion campaign. He is currently training with the club.

Now aged 34, Barton has never shied away from controversy and his often violent misdemeanours – one off the pitch incident in late-night Liverpool ended in a jail sentence – have been matched by a street-wise and challenging intelligence that has made him something of a cult figure on his travels that have included stays at Manchester City, QPR, Olympique Marseilles as well as Rangers and Burnley.

It his challenging and never-say-die approach to the game on the pitch that has always brought him back from the brink and whatever the outcome of the latest disciplinary hearing by an independent regulatory commission headed by a QC in January, it would be a mistake to rule him out of a return to the game if he is given a lengthy ban.

Barton has until January 5 to respond to the FA charges that he placed bets between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016.

Last month he was given a one-match suspension by the Scottish FA after he admitted breaking rules forbidding players gambling on any match – he placed 44 bets on games between July 1 and September 15. He has still not served that suspension which would be carried over if he returned to England.

Barton, for all his travails, would be the last person most would suspect of being involved in match-fixing – it just doesn’t fit his modus operandi – and that isn’t the charge the FA is making. But the FA has at times shown it is prepared to crackdown hard on players betting – Barton began his career at a time when betting was a big part of the dressing room culture at English football clubs. In many ways the verdict will show how much appetite the FA has for this kind of rule-breaking, or whether they just have an appetite for Joey Barton.

In May, the former Manchester City defender Martín Demichelis was fined £22,000 for betting on 29 matches.

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