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FA's Joey Barton ban hypocritical in the extreme

Wednesday 26th April 2017

You can bet the executive lavatories at the FA offices in Wembley Stadium don't have mirrors. If they do disciplinary board members apparently don't use them. How else can they explain the eighteen-month Joey Barton ban handed down for gambling offences?

I might as well get the caveats out of the way from the start. Joey Barton is no choir boy. He's behaved recklessly on the pitch and off, committing leg-breaking tackles in matches and behind the wheel. He's assaulted opponents, fans, and teammates.

Barton was lucky to have his four-month sentence merely suspended after pummeling Ousmane Dabo so badly the former Manchester City player required hospital care. He was even more fortunate to be allowed to continue playing professionally. His barroom brawl in Newcastle, while still under probation, finally sent him to jail. Yet he was again permitted to pursue his career after serving less than three months.

His first stay with Queens Park Rangers was lowlighted by his complete loss of control in 2011-12's final match against old club City. Sent off for elbowing Carlos Tevez in the mush, he sought further confrontations with Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero, and Mario Balotelli before Micah Richards corralled him, finally convincing a possessed Barton to leave the pitch.

For a time it appeared he'd managed to contain his demons to the point he would only lash out verbally, as when he referred to Thiago Silva as an "overweight ladyboy." Previous public service announcements against homophobia protected him from serious sanctions.

Then came his most recent physical altercation, on the Rangers' training ground against Andy Halliday. The Scottish club cancelled his contract, selling him back to Burnley.

Ironically his most egregious offence at Turf Moor was failing to make a professional foul on Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, resulting in the opening goal in a 0-2 defeat last week.

Given such a history, you might be inclined to believe the 34-year-old is only getting what he deserves. He has himself observed an eighteen-month ban effectively forces his retirement. That said, for justice to be served, any punishment should fit the crime rather than unrelated incidents. It speaks volumes to the FA's hypocrisy that Barton has been banned on three occasions for violent conduct, for six, six, and 12 matches respectively, whereas he is being sat for a year-and-a-half at the first time charged for gambling offences the association readily agrees were personal and in no way corrupt.

Does putting a few bob on a match to add interest place the game in greater disrepute than repeated assaults with intent to cause bodily harm? If it does, why do the FA and Premier League allow clubs to develop relationships with gambling concerns? Why do they get in bed with bookmakers themselves? Or have you never watched a SkyBET Football League match?

His talent and leadership skills (when in control) aside, Joey Barton possesses three positive character traits that should be appreciated. He is honest, forthright, and has a deliciously dark sense of humour.

Even if you find his "ladyboy" remark offensive, consider how he was able to look inward, acknowledge how his own volatile temperament so often betrays him, then name his son Cassius.

If you go to Barton's website, you will find a refreshingly balanced array of self-promotional and introspective posts depicting a human being with clear imperfections but also a measure of wisdom whether you agree with his politics or not. In the suspension's wake you'll also find his statement concerning the situation.

Barton doesn't argue innocence. He accepts he should be punished for breaking FA regulations on gambling. He only asks for just punishment, pointing out the only players previously assessed bans exceeding a year bet against their team then played in the match, presenting the opportunity to directly influence the outcome. As noted, the FA agrees Barton never crossed that line.

Moreover, he placed his most recent football bet four years ago. He has since been in treatment for gambling addiction and cooperated openly and fully with the FA regarding his activities. A Joey Barton ban through the calendar year, ending in seven months, seems more appropriate. Meanwhile, the FA should spend a portion of the £30,000 fine levied to install new mirrors at Wembley.

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.

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