Ivan Toney could be banned from playing for months after he was charged by the Football Association with 232 alleged breaches of its gambling laws.
The Brentford striker, who has been in scintillating form for his club and had hoped to be included in England’s 26-man World Cup squad, was charged on Wednesday after the FA concluded an investigation into activity which covered a period of nearly four years.
“Ivan Toney has been charged with misconduct in relation to alleged breaches of the FA’s betting rules,” the FA said in a statement. “It is alleged that the Brentford FC forward breached FA rule E8 232 times between 25 February 2017 and 23 January 2021.”
Footballers who play in England are banned from making any type of bet on football, or asking others to do so on their behalf. The FA’s rule E8 also bans the sharing of privileged information for the purposes of betting and sanctions can be tough.
In 2020 England international Kieran Trippier was banned from playing for 10 weeks and fined £70,000 after he was found to have shared information about his upcoming transfer to Atlético Madrid with his friends. An appeal made to Fifa to reduce the ban, observing that Trippier had not benefited financially from his actions, was rejected.
The former England player Daniel Sturridge was banned for six weeks after sharing privileged information on a transfer, this ban was extended to four months after a failed appeal. Last year, two Boston United players were charged with, between them, 757 breaches of Rule E8, related to placing bets on matches. The pair, Andi Thanoj and Jay Rollins, were subsequently found guilty and banned for five months.
Toney has one week to reply to the charges, with a deadline set of Thursday 24 November. The 26‑year‑old has scored 10 goals in the Premier League for his club so far this seaason.
In a statement, Brentford said: “The club has been in discussion with Ivan and his legal representatives about this matter and those conversations will continue privately. We will make no further comment until the matter has been completed.”
The Brentford forward Ivan Toney has said he is “assisting the Football Association with their enquiries” after it was reported in national newspapers that he is being investigated over allegations of historical match betting.
The FA has declined to comment on the reports, but Toney tweeted a statement on Saturday evening. “I’m aware of a story about me in a national newspaper today,” he said. “I have been assisting the FA with their enquiries and will not be making any comment until such investigation has reached its conclusion.”
Toney, who is hopeful of being named in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2022 World Cup on Thursday, added: “I am a proud Englishman and it has always been my childhood dream to play for my country at a World Cup finals.”
Brentford have also issued a brief statement on their official website to acknowledge they were aware of the claims. “We note the story concerning Ivan Toney and the FA investigation. The club will not be commenting,” the statement said.
Under FA rules, players operating at Premier League, Football League, National League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship levels are “prohibited from betting, either directly or indirectly, on any football match or competition that takes place anywhere in the world.”
The ban extends to “betting on any other football-related matter – for example, the transfer of players, employment of managers or team selection,” while “the passing of inside information to somebody that uses the information for betting remains prohibited.”
Toney was part of Southgate’s squad for September’s Nations League clashes with Italy and Germany, but did not figure in either game as he awaits his senior international debut. The 26-year old has scored eight Premier League goals this season, adding to a tally of 12 last term.
The frontman missed Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest through suspension after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season against Wolves last weekend. Toney joined Brentford for £5m from Peterborough in 2020 after beginning his career with hometown club Northampton and going on loan to Barnsley, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Wigan while at Newcastle.
The Football Association has expressed concern in a forcefully worded statement about the rise in frequency of offensive chanting about the Hillsborough disaster, calling the latest incidents “abhorrent” and strongly condemning “these terrible chants”.
The FA considers chants about the disaster to be deeply inappropriate and offensive, but is prevented from sanctioning clubs over them because it only has jurisdiction under its rules to act on discriminatory chanting. However, the governing body says it supports efforts to stamp out the behaviour.
Ninety-seven football fans were found to have been unlawfully killed as a result of the failings of the emergency services at the FA semi-final match against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.
“We are very concerned about the rise of abhorrent chants in stadiums that are related to the Hillsborough disaster and other football-related tragedies,” an FA spokesperson said. “These chants are highly offensive and are deeply upsetting for the families, friends and communities who have been impacted by these devastating events, and we strongly condemn this behaviour. We support clubs and fans who try to stamp out this behaviour from our game.
“We also support the excellent work of the survivor groups who engage with stakeholders across football to help educate people about the damaging and lasting effects that these terrible chants can have.”
Byrne told the Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, that his organisation had a “duty of care” to stamp out the chanting, and that three Hillsborough survivors had taken their own lives this year, two of them since the Champions League final in Paris. Liverpool supporters were kept penned outside the perimeter of the stadium in Paris in May for hours before kick-off.
Byrne wants the Premier League to back The Real Truth Legacy Project, an initiative he leads to educate people about what happened at Hillsborough. He tweeted on Wednesday afternoon: “A welcome statement from the FA who are welcome to join our meeting with the @premierleague when agreed. The need for football stakeholders to work on the education of supporters regards Hillsborough is long overdue.”
Last month, Liverpool condemned a section of the travelling Manchester City support for engaging in “vile” taunts relating to the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters during the Premier League game between the clubs. “We are deeply disappointed to hear vile chants relating to football stadium tragedies from the away section during today’s game at Anfield,” the club said. “The concourse in the away section was also vandalised with graffiti of a similar nature.
“We know the impact such behaviour has on the families, survivors and all those associated with such disasters. We are working with the relevant authorities and we will also work with Manchester City in order to do our utmost to ensure these chants are eradicated from football altogether.”
Fears of England fans inadvertently provoking police during the World Cup have caused UK officials to send extra officers to Qatar to “deconflict” situations.
Concerns over cultural misunderstandings and preconceptions regarding the behaviour of travelling England fans means that, for the first time at an international tournament, British police will be sending “supporter engagement officers” (SEOs) to warn people if their behaviour is likely to be interpreted as problematic, even if they are not breaking any laws.
“It’s a World Cup in a very different part of the world with a very different culture,” said chief constable Mark Roberts, England’s national lead for football policing. “One of my fears is that supporters not wishing to cause problems may act in a way that inadvertently causes offence or draws attention. Equally there may be perceptions on the part of either Qatari police or the supporting Turkish police where there’s this misapprehension of what supporters are doing.”
Qatari organisers have drafted in thousands of officers from Turkish national police to control events outside World Cup stadiums, with police officers from Pakistan seconded to provide security and stewarding within grounds. Fans are expected to congregate in only a small number of locations within Doha, Qatar’s capital, largely around one fan zone in the city’s Corniche district, capable of holding up to 40,000 spectators.
Roberts said SEOs would act a “buffer” between supporters and law enforcement. “They will be engaging with supporters if we think there’s a risk that they may be overstepping a mark as viewed by the locals,” he said.
“Our first port of call will be for our officers to go over to them try to explain and try to deconflict. Equally if we think there’s going to be an intervention by law enforcement, [SEOs] will be seeking to engage with that law enforcement, just calm it down and move people on, try to inject a sense of balance.”
Roberts said the suggestion of sending SEOs was made by UK police after planning events in the Gulf state and that the idea was welcomed by Qatari officials. However he said there remained uncertainty over how the operation will work.
“We’re all there as guests of the Qataris so it’s their operation,” he said. “It’s all very encouraging, but I’ve not got the benefit of English domestic teams playing Champions League games in Qatar for the last 20 years. So while I can say with confidence I know how the Germans do it I can’t say that [in Qatar], because we’ve not had the wealth of experience.”
The English Football Association’s head of security, Tony Conniford, said he expected a minimum of 3,000 English fans would attend the group matches, starting against Iran on 21 November. He asked police not to act on reputation when assessing the behaviour of England supporters.
“I feel like communication is the key to success of this tournament,” Conniford said. “If fans are well-informed before they travel then I think they will respect and adhere to the culture we are going into. In every country I’ve been into in recent years I’ve asked that England fans are policed on the behaviour that’s in front of them and not the reputation that precedes them. I sincerely hope that this will be the case on this occasion.
“It is a completely new environment for us to travel to, one that has not staged a major football tournament before, and I think it will make for an exciting supporter experience. I’d like to think that the [Qatari authorities] are ready, but I think we’ll only find out once we get there.”
English football clubs who signed up to a charter to improve diversity in their organisations are failing across the board, new figures are set to show.
On Friday the Football Association will publish the results of the second year of its Leadership Diversity Code. It is expected to reveal that clubs have failed to hit voluntary targets in a number of areas, with a particular weakness in making change at the top of organisations.
The FA said more than 50 clubs had signed up to the scheme a year ago, including every Premier League side, but while some progress has been made in increasing diversity among coaching staff, clubs could be set to fail in as many as six of the eight targets, showing no improvement on the code’s inaugural year.
Disappointing results from clubs are set to be put into perspective by comparatively successful results from the organisational bodies who have signed up, including the EFL and Premier League, as well as the FA itself.
The targets are broken into four groups, with two of those related to appointments in coaching. Signatories agree that 50% of coaching hires for women’s teams will be women and 15% of black, Asian or mixed heritage. In men’s teams, the coaching targets correspond to 25% of new hires being black, Asian or of mixed heritage, with the figure dropping to 10% for senior coaching hires. In team operations the figures are 15% black, Asian or mixed heritage and 30% women, the same proportion required of new senior leadership hires.
Those within the game who supported the introduction of the code believe that forcing clubs to be transparent about their appointments will keep their actions under scrutiny. But the news will highlight the lengths football still has to go to make itself representative of the people who play and follow the game.
Last week the Black Footballers Partnership released figures suggesting that only only 1.6% of executive, leadership and ownership positions in the Premier League and EFL are held by black people. And whereas 43% of Premier League players are black, the same can be said of only 4.4% of managers across England’s top four divisions. QPR’s Les Ferdinand, a BFP member and the only black sporting director in the English game, said the Leadership Diversity Code had “made no difference whatsoever” in helping black players get jobs in the game.
Delroy Corinaldi, the executive director of the BFP said: “An organisation like ours was set up because we knew there were gaps in the game that need to be filled if it’s to achieve what it wants to achieve. The game needs to work in partnership with organisations like ours, set up to give the FA a new lens for delivering meaningful change, because the time for gestures is over.”
Gabriel Jesus believes suggestions Arsenal’s players could experience burnout this season are unfounded and says he has no fear of fatigue during a campaign in which he could play more than 60 games for club and country.
Eyebrows were raised last week when Mikel Arteta said his team, in relation to their workload and Bukayo Saka’s inclusion in European ties, should take the example of top players who “play 70 matches, every three days, make the difference and win the game”.
Arteta has made minimal changes to his starting XI in the Premier League wherever possible and has not been shy to field big names in an untaxing Europa League group but Jesus believes hitting his manager’s target would not fatigue him.
“Of course not,” he said. “I’m doing good recovery after the games: eating better, sleeping better, enjoying life in the Arsenal T-shirt a lot. So I’m ready to play 50, 60, 70 games per season.”
Jesus could start against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday as Arteta seeks the draw that would guarantee top spot in Group A with a game to spare and avoid the complication of an extra knockout round in February. In theory he could play around 70 times this season if both Arsenal and Brazil, for whom he hopes to feature at the World Cup, enjoy successful campaigns. Such an eventuality is hardly unknown: in 2019-20 he played 61 matches, whether as a starter or off the bench, in all competitions for Manchester City and the Seleção.
The question regarding overwork has cropped up in part because Jesus, who scored five goals in his first nine Arsenal games, has drawn blanks in his most recent five. Those figures do not tell the full story of his contribution but he was happy to address the topic. “That’s happened before and I’m pretty sure in the future it’s going to happen again,” he said. “I don’t want it to be like this, of course. I want to improve, I want to work and then next game, I try again. And I’m 100% sure I will score.”
Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are two other players leaned on heavily by Arteta and Jesus smilingly referred to them as “machines”.
The Football Association confirmed on Wednesday that it would not be taking further action regarding an alleged comment made by Jordan Henderson to the Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhães when Liverpool visited the Emirates Stadium this month. “Whilst the FA is entirely satisfied that the allegation was made in good faith, it is equally satisfied that there is no case to answer,” its statement read.
Asked whether the matter was closed from Arsenal’s perspective, Arteta said: “I said from the first day that it’s a decision that relies totally on the FA and they made that decision so that’s it.”
On Gabriel’s point of view, he said: “That’s something to ask to Gabi but the decision is made.”
Oleksandr Zinchenko remains sidelined by a calf injury and Arsenal will wait to see if Marquinhos has recovered from sickness before deciding if the winger can face PSV.
The FA said in a statement: “The investigation included taking witness statements from the complainant and accused, along with an additional six players who were within proximity of the alleged incident, reviewing multiple angles of video footage, and seeking independent linguistics experts evidence. None of the witnesses heard the alleged comment, and the player accused strenuously denied the allegation throughout.
“Whilst the FA is entirely satisfied that the allegation was made in good faith, it is equally satisfied that there is no case to answer. The FA continues to take all allegations received extremely seriously and would encourage anyone who believes that they have been the subject of or witness to abuse to report this through the appropriate channels.”
The match at Emirates Stadium was briefly paused as Michael Oliver, the referee, ran to the touchline to speak with the managers, Mikel Arteta and Jürgen Klopp, after an argument erupted inside the Liverpool penalty area. Oliver spoke again to both managers after the game before the matter was referred to the FA.
Arteta said a few days later that he would “100%” support the version of events given from Arsenal’s side.
“At half-time as I was standing in the centre circle, the player I had [sent off] during the first half approached me, started shouting in my face: ‘Why don’t you start fucking getting decisions right and you’re fucking useless.’ I replied: ‘Move away from me.’ He then pushed me three times in the chest and said: ‘What are you going to fucking do about it?’ I asked him to leave the pitch now. He then started throwing punches at me which he connected with me twice hitting me on the back of the head. I have evidence of contact.”
The above testimony formed part of a Football Association disciplinary hearing in August. It came from a referee in the Cumberland County League who had taken charge of a fixture between Whitehaven Miners Social First and Cleator Moor Celtic reserves and was assaulted. The hearing ended with Cleator Moor’s Adam Meagan being banned from all football activities for seven and a half years. It was a draconian sentence, but one that many within the grassroots game would consider not tough enough.
There is an epidemic of abuse against referees and linesmen in England. Last season 380 players were banned by the FA for attacking or threatening match officials. The Merseyside Youth League cancelled a round of fixtures last weekend in response to “multiple incidents of inappropriate and threatening behaviour” on the part not of players but those watching from the sidelines. In response, the FA announced a trial that would allow referees to wear body cameras to capture evidence against assailants.
The FA observes that incidents of assault on referees remain uncommon, that ‘serious cases’ – which take in not only assault but abuse and discrimination – have been reported at just over one in 1,000 matches this season, to the end of September. But the fact that anyone should be in fear of their safety for doing something that – at grassroots level – effectively amounts to community work remains a serious concern.
“We’re seeing a rise in reports asking us for direction,” says Paul Kirton of Team Grassroots, which provides support to community football clubs. “You’ve seen a rise not only in incidents but in the severity of incidents, and the biggest concern could be the incidents that go unreported.”
Like the FA, Team Grassroots has launched a campaign – No Ref, No Game – to raise awareness of abuse and tackle it. For Kirton, what must emerge is a new consensus on what is acceptable, be it from players, coaches or – especially relevant at youth games – spectators, most of whom are parents.
“Perspective in grassroots football is everything,” Kirton says. “One person’s good tackle is another’s red card. We’re at a bit of a crossroads now, however, and need to have difficult conversations that reset the lines of what is appropriate. When those lines are breached we need the penalties to have teeth to bite harder, but personal responsibility has to be at the heart of whatever we choose to do.”
Dr Jamie Cleland is an academic who conducts research into socio-cultural issues in sport and was the co-author of a book that tried to grapple with the issue of referee abuse last year. He argues that the situation facing grassroots referees cannot be separated from the regular criticism officials receive in the professional game. With Jürgen Klopp’s fury at the assistant referee Gary Beswick only the latest example, an outburst that has left the Liverpool manager facing a disciplinary charge, Cleland’s reading of the situation is not a rosy one.
“It is clear that referees continue to face regular incidents of verbal abuse and, on some occasions, physical abuse,” he says. “Whilst the incidents of high-profile managers berating match officials make headlines, the reality is that they do no favours for those referees on pitches up and down the country. They are in such a vulnerable position with no protection from security and police. It is only a matter of time before we see a British referee killed if no action is taken to try and stamp this out. It has happened in other countries so why will it not happen here? We should not be naive about this.”
Referees have been killed after players took issue with their decisions in Canada and El Salvador this year, and Cleland argues that the tribal nature of football – amongst players, supporters and even parents – means officials are considered legitimate targets.
“It is hard to envisage few other scenarios across society where such abuse would be permitted, but in the world of football, where referees are outsiders but are people who have a major influence on the outcome of the match, it seems that directing one’s fury towards them is ‘fair game’.”
Cleland believes the media have a responsibility to moderate criticism of referees to help change the culture, but he argues that the consistent application of tougher sanctions will be key to lasting change. “There needs to be better support and mentoring mechanisms in place for referees at an amateur level because not enough of them have confidence in the County FAs that the reporting of incidents result in some form of sanction for the player, coach or club,” he says. “In essence, there should be zero tolerance to make football a game for all, including the role of the referee.”
The FA said last month that it was willing to consider tougher sanctions against those behaving unacceptably at grassroots matches. “We have been very clear that all forms of abuse, whether on or off the pitch, are completely unacceptable, and we will continue to do everything we can to stamp out this behaviour,” an FA spokesperson told the Guardian. “While it is a small minority of people that act in this way, this is still too many. This season the FA launched the new Enough is Enough campaign, making it clear that action will be taken against anyone whose behaviour is unacceptable.”
The Football Association will open a wide-ranging investigation into events that marred Liverpool’s win over Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday, which may include a formal complaint from the visitors over damage to their team bus.
The FA is awaiting a report from the referee, Anthony Taylor, before deciding whether to charge, warn or take no action against Jürgen Klopp after the Liverpool manager was sent off for remonstrating with the assistant referee Gary Beswick. It is also looking into allegations of coin-throwing and offensive chanting during Liverpool’s 1-0 win.
City are also expected to complain to the FA after their team bus was attacked as it departed Anfield. The windscreen was broken when objects were thrown at the bus on Anfield Road, with City’s players on board. Liverpool were fined €20,000 by Uefa in 2018 after supporters damaged the City team coach en route to a Champions League quarter-final at Anfield. A City supporters’ bus was also attacked by Liverpool fans in 2015.
The Premier League champions want action taken over the latest incident involving their team bus. They have not commented on City supporters chanting relating to Hillsborough during the game or vandalising toilets in the away section at Anfield with graffiti about the disaster. Liverpool issued a statement on Sunday night condemning the “vile chants” that impact on families and survivors of the disaster. The FA condemns the chants and supports Liverpool’s statement. It has jurisdiction to take action only over discriminatory chanting and its investigation will consider whether that was the case on Sunday.
Liverpool have pledged to issue lifetime bans to any fan found guilty of throwing coins at City’s manager, Pep Guardiola.
Merseyside police, Liverpool and the FA are looking into the incidents that saw Guardiola targeted in his technical area. The FA will not take action against Liverpool if it is found that a few individuals were responsible for throwing coins. The club could be in trouble for failing to control its supporters, however, should footage reveal that 10-15 people, as an example, were involved.
Klopp could be in his technical area for Liverpool’s Premier League home game against West Ham on Wednesday because his red card does not carry an automatic ban. A red card for a manager means only that they have to watch the rest of the game in a designated area. The nature of the dismissal, including what was said, will determine whether any further action is taken. The FA must consider Taylor’s official report before deciding what course to take. Klopp could be offered a one-match ban and a fine, which he would have to accept to miss the West Ham game.
The former Wales football captain Ashley Williams has been charged by the Football Association with improper conduct during a children’s match.
The 38-year-old former Swansea and Everton defender has been charged in relation to a confrontation with an opposition coach during an under-12s game in Manchester in which his son was playing. Williams has requested a personal hearing and will contest the charge.
A spokesperson for Williams told the Daily Mail: “Ashley had been assaulted and was defending himself. We have 45 witnesses – including people associated with the two teams who were about to use the pitch – who will back up our version of events and we will defend Ashley vigorously.”
A spokesman for Manchester County FA said: “Following an investigation, Mr Williams has been charged by Manchester FA with an alleged breach of FA Rule E3 – improper conduct (including violent conduct and threatening and/or abusive language/behaviour) – and has responded to the charge requesting a personal hearing.”
Williams, who played 86 times for Wales, announced his retirement from football in January 2021.