Ex-England and Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton claims 50% of professional footballers bet on matches

Joey Barton before the Premier League match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull
Joey Barton before the Premier League match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull
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Banned footballer Joey Barton has claimed half of all professional footballers bet on matches and the practice is "culturally ingrained" in the sport.

The 35-year-old former Newcastle and England midfielder was fined £30,000 and given an 18-month ban in April last year for breaching betting rules, a move he said effectively forced him into early retirement.

He was found to have placed 1,260 bets on football matches between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016, including some he played in, but said he was not involved in match-fixing - and at no point had his integrity been called into question.

Barton, who has also played for Manchester City, QPR, Newcastle, Marseille and Rangerssubsequently, subsequently had his ban reduced by five months after an appeal.

Now he has said the practice of players betting on matches is widespread in the game - and called on the FA to do more to tackle the culture of gambling in football.

"I think if they found out everyone who has been betting and cracked down on it, you'd have half the league out," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I think 50% of the playing staff would be taken out because it's culturally ingrained."

Barton, who was playing for Burnley at the time of his ban, said he was addicted to gambling.

He said he placed 15,000 sports bets in 12 years, and admits his addiction is a "constant battle".

Players in England's top eight tiers of football are not allowed to bet on football matches. But Barton said there was a deeper problem that extended beyond the behaviour of players.

"Where we've got it wrong is that we've got the gambling rules mixed up with the match-fixing rules," he said.

"Match-fixing is wrong and challenges the integrity of the sport, it's the same as taking performance-enhancing drugs.

"I think culturally betting is acceptable. There's nothing wrong with betting if it's controlled - it's when it becomes out of control and people bet beyond their means.

"My point to the FA was, how can they be so stringent when they have an official gambling partner?

"I believed that no-one cared about betting. I thought they just cared about match-fixing.

"I'd had a betting account in my name for 12 years. I was doing things for betting companies and they were paying me in betting account money - they weren't informing the FA."

Barton - who also played for Manchester City, QPR, Newcastle, Marseille and Rangers - was fined £30,000 and initially banned for 18 months.