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26 July 2021: Seven years since The FA last updated the sanctions guidance offered to decision-makers in betting cases, there is still uncertainty as to an individual’s likely punishment for breaching FA betting rules, according to a new report ‘Evening the Odds’ from Level. 

The most common betting cases (35%) involved a player or other participant betting on their own team to lose. Whilst all of these cases resulted in a ban, those bans ranged from a month to over three years. Yet 42% of cases (including where participants did not place a bet on their own team to lose) did not result in a ban of any kind. 

The report finds that breaches of the FA’s betting rules continue to increase year-on-year from 6 in the 2016/17 season to 40 in the 2019/20 season. Alastair Campbell, Sports Partner at Level, said: “Rapid shifts in gambling habits to online and mobile since 2014 have undoubtedly contributed to the year-on-year increase in betting cases, yet The FA’s sanctions guidance has not adapted to deal with the changing nature of gambling, and participants facing betting charges are still faced with significant uncertainty.  

“The high number of serious cases is troubling, but The FA should also be concerned that less serious cases may be escaping detection – that said, it is to be expected that the most serious cases are given the highest priority,” added Alastair. 

The report found that many participants and players, particularly in the lower leagues, claim they are ignorant of the rules or thought they didn’t apply to them, suggesting that The FA’s education initiatives on gambling and integrity are effective in the higher echelons of the game, but may not be reaching those in the lower leagues. 

When it comes to the issue of addiction, more than a quarter (26%) of decisions cited addiction as a mitigating factor when considering sanction. Addiction was mentioned (but was not expressly treated as a mitigating factor) in further cases, suggesting it is at play in around a third of the cases brought before The FA.  The report suggests that there is a need for improved consistency in the treatment of addiction as a mitigating factor.  

 Alastair commented: “With the role of betting companies in football – and advertising in particular – coming under more scrutiny than ever before, our findings on the prevalence of addiction are likely to add fuel to the fire of those calling for stricter regulation of the relationship between gambling and professional football.”