In light of Ivan Toney receiving his ban from the FA this week, Ben McGregor, EPIC Risk Management‘s Director of Sports Partnerships, assesses what steps football and its trusted partners can take to ensure players follow betting regulations.
Before reflecting on the Brentford and England forward’s eight-month ban and £50,000 fine, the Director highlighted the importance of preluding any discussion over the rights and wrongs of the situation.
Ultimately, the player’s well being and the need for a strong support network around him are ‘paramount’, McGregor believes.
As Toney loses the lion’s share of a season for club and country when he’s at the peak of his athletic powers, McGregor describes the fine as a ‘high price’ for the 232 breaches.
“That’s on top of what he may well have lost financially from that series of bets – now exacerbated by a further £50,000 fine – and the undoubted curb on the number of England caps he has so far received,” he continued.
Therefore, he asserted that there is very little to gain from dissecting Toney’s every move in public, but suggested that the industry must assess what steps can be taken to ensure it is not repeated on anything like this kind of scale.
McGregor underlined the importance of education as a first priority for clubs, leagues and governing bodies, particularly surrounding gambling-related harm, and making players know exactly who to turn to in difficult times.
“Back in February, we launched our Gambling Harm Prevention in Sport Review white paper, informed by the Pro Sport Advisory Board,” he added. “They have seen what effective preventative measures look like from their experience in elite sporting environments, and our very first (of ten) recommendations is for safer gambling to be embedded into the culture of every sports club.
“Gambling and sports will forever be intertwined, so a responsible approach to safeguard those who will always be close to – and often endorsing – the messaging promoting gambling around stadia, apparel or on social media is paramount.”
This remains relevant as research shows that athletes are four times more likely than the general population to experience gambling disorder, with reasons such as having natural competitive spirit or an innate sense of greater sporting knowledge.
Those who are experiencing considerable losses will often be more susceptible to integrity issues due to the implications of the debts that they accrue.
McGregor explained that, when coupling this with other mental health concerns which regularly accompany gambling disorders, the likelihood that they will take more risks is heightened.
EPIC’s Director added: “Until the FA’s full statement is released, listing the reasons for Toney’s severity of suspension, speculation over the rights and wrongs of the verdict is unhelpful.
“We use lived experience to greatest effect through our facilitators opening up to audiences in a relevant fashion about their experiences in the same (or a similar) profession, because the peer-to-peer way of talking makes their experience all the more relatable, as current players realise ‘that could be me if I don’t take action’.
“We would urge every elite sporting institution – not just in football – to engender this method of conversation throughout every level of their institution.
“We work to a mantra of ‘taking harm out of gambling’ and the offer is there to provide any help to Ivan Toney and his support network at this challenging time, as well as being there ahead of time for others to minimise the risk of gambling harm,” he concluded.