Manager who gambled on football secretly spared punishment by FA

A manager who gambled nearly £1million, including bets on his own sport, has secretly been let off by the Football Association at the same time that player Ivan Toney is serving an eight-month suspension.

Manager A – his real name cannot be used for legal reasons – had eight betting accounts and admitted being a gambling addict in evidence presented to a court case last year in which two former footballers were accused of blackmailing him.

Although the majority of those bets were placed on horse racing, the court was told he had also contravened FA rules by gambling on his own sport.

However, the FA has decided not to take any action, other than to issue a warning, in a judgment that the English game’s governing body has deliberately kept away from the media, almost certainly to avoid any challenging questions about its disciplinary processes.

Manager A’s identity cannot be reported because of a court order that was made when the two ex-players, Alan Rogers and Steven Jennings, were due to go on trial last year.

Rogers, formerly of clubs including Nottingham Forest and Leicester City, was charged with one count of blackmail and another of perverting the course of justice.

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Alan Rogers saw charges of blackmail and perverting the course of justice dropped (Ben Radford /Allsport)

Jennings, a former Everton trainee who spent most of his well-travelled career at Tranmere Rovers, had faced the same charges and another alleged offence of blackmail.

The two defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case was dropped after Manager A made it clear through a series of legal submissions that he had changed his mind and did not want to go through with the trial.

According to evidence heard in court, the manager gambled £879,000 ($1million) across two years, running up losses of £270,000, and had “excluded himself from mainstream gamblers” in an attempt to change his lifestyle.

One of his letters to the court, explaining why he wanted to abandon the trial, left a judge saying he had “concern about his welfare”.

However, the FA has not stipulated whether Manager A’s state of mind played a part in the process that has ended with the governing body deciding against issuing the disciplinary charges that would ordinarily be expected.

The court case collapsed a year ago this week and the FA’s disciplinary unit had been given access to the police evidence, including phone records, bank accounts and bookmakers’ data.

The manager laid the bets, ranging from £5 to £400, at one of his previous clubs and gambled on what was described in court as a “handful” of football matches. It was not mentioned whether or not they involved his own club.

What the FA has not explained is why Manager A has been given, in effect, a free pass in comparison to other similar cases in which players have been fined or banned as a matter of routine. His case would ordinarily be seen as having aggravating circumstances because of him being a manager and, as such, having extra responsibilities to uphold the rules.

There have also been various examples of footballers being punished for a small number of breaches – each bet counts as a breach – and sometimes even a single bet.

To cite one example, Jack Colback was charged with misconduct by the FA for making one bet, and one only, during his time as a Newcastle United player. Colback, who had staked a losing £100 sum on a Champions League tie between Bayern Munich and Juventus, was fined £25,000.

In another case that the FA publicised, Kyle Lafferty was fined £23,000 in his days as a Norwich City player for placing a single bet on two Spanish games.

As Toney has discovered, anyone who makes a high number of bets is liable to a long ban.

In the case of the Brentford and England striker, there were 232 breaches over a four-year period that involved his current Premier League club as well as previous ones Peterborough United and Newcastle United and his loan spells at Scunthorpe United and Wigan Athletic.

On 13 occasions, Toney bet on his own team to lose.

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Toney is serving an eight-month FA ban for betting offences (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Manager A is still working in the top four professional divisions in the English game but has left the club where his gambling led to an FA investigation. His current team were made aware of the court case and the possibility that, as a result of the evidence, their employee would face disciplinary charges.

However, the case was complicated for the FA, bearing in mind Manager A has been granted anonymity via the legal system.

To ban a manager in those circumstances would immediately have risked identifying him, even inadvertently, as the same person who was involved in a court case that had attracted publicity last year.

At least one person with inside knowledge of the FA processes had doubts that the organisation would be willing to grapple with the issue and either charge or punish him.



Ivan Toney’s betting ban shames the whole of football, not just him

The Athletic has asked the FA for updates at regular interludes over the past year and found it difficult to get answers before discovering that a decision had, in fact, been taken a few months ago.

Since then, the FA has refused to discuss the matter, even on an anonymised basis, and will not take questions to provide further context about what warrants disciplinary action, and what does not, at a time when many people within the sport will want to know why Manager A has been treated differently to others.

The FA’s messaging has always been of a zero-tolerance policy and there are guidelines on its website stating: “Breaching the FA betting rules, or using inside information, is serious stuff … you are likely to get caught and receive a FA charge.”

Many people have questioned whether the football authorities are operating with jumbled priorities at a time when sponsorship deals with bookmakers are common throughout the sport.

Harry Toffolo, the Nottingham Forest defender, became the latest player to fall foul of the FA’s Rule E8 this week when he was given a suspended five-month ban for betting 375 times at the start of his career.

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Toffolo was given a suspended five-month ban for betting offences (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Toffolo’s betting related to a period from 2014 to 2017 while he was employed by Norwich City and aged 18 to 21, during which time he went out on loan at several lower-division clubs. The FA say its full written reasons will be disclosed soon.

No more details, however, will be presented in the case of the manager at the centre of a hushed-up FA investigation that opens the governing body up to allegations of treating Manager A with a degree of leniency that has not been shown to others.

Rogers, meanwhile, is understood to be taking legal action against Manager A to retrieve the legal costs he incurred while he was preparing for the trial, in which he vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

“I’ve never met this fella, never spoken to him, never been in his company, never been in contact, and somehow I’ve been dragged into his gambling addiction,” he told The Athletic last year.

(Top photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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