Footballer banned after joint work between the FA, SBIU and the betting industry

Following a decision by the Independent Regulatory Commission of the Football Association, former Lincoln City FC defender Bradley Wood has received a six-year suspension from football and all football activity from 9 March 2018 to 8 March 2024, after a finding that he committed 25 breaches of The FA’s Integrity and Betting Rules. The written reasons and decision dated 18 April 2018 can be downloaded below.

By way of background, a betting operator, licensed by the Gambling Commission, identified and reported suspicious betting activity that the player would receive a yellow card during a 2017 FA Cup 5th Round match between Burnley FC and Lincoln City FC. Mr Wood was subsequently cautioned in the seventieth minute of that match for being involved in an altercation with Burnley players. The FA alleged that, in breach of FA Rule E5(a), Mr Wood “directly sought to influence for an improper purpose the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, a football match or competition” in that he “influenced a football betting market during the above fixture by intentionally seeking to be cautioned by the match referee”.

He was also charged with a similar breach of Rule E5(a) in an earlier FA Cup tie between Lincoln City FC and Ipswich Town FC (on 17 January 2017) in which he was cautioned in the ninetieth minute for a deliberate foul on a player who was challenging Lincoln’s goal.

Both the FA and the Gambling Commission have published statements (that can also be downloaded below).

The FA statement on football integrity states as follows:

The integrity of football in England at all levels is of paramount importance which is why The FA, in partnership with the whole game, is committed to ensuring it is maintained.

The FA has a dedicated integrity team, including former criminal investigators, which is specifically tasked to investigate any alleged breaches of The FA’s Match Integrity and Betting Rules.

This team works closely with the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Integrity Unit, UK betting operators and law enforcement agencies, such as the National Crime Agency, and both UEFA and FIFA to share data and intelligence.

The FA has a partnership with a specialist bet monitoring company that analyses global markets offered on all English matches to identify unusual odds movements. It is also represented on the national Sports Betting Group and the Sports Betting Integrity Forum.

Education continues to be a key part of The FA’s overall framework, in conjunction with the PFA and leagues, with regular club visits, educational films, literature and a player essentials app all in place, thus ensuring all participants are aware of their obligations to report any approaches to bet, accept a bribe, share inside information, influence any event within a match or fix the outcome or result of a game or competition.

Any allegation or report of a potential breach will be investigated and the full force of The FA’s Match Integrity and Betting Rules, which are well developed and wide-ranging, will be applied. There exists also a dedicated, anonymous, integrity reporting line via the telephone number 0208 795 9640 or email [email protected]

The Gambling Commission’s statement reads as follows:

Information reported to the Gambling Commission has resulted in a football player being banned for six years by the Football Association (FA).

Bradley Wood, former Lincoln City FC defender, has been handed a six-year ban by football’s sport’s governing body. This is in relation to the 2017 FA Cup 5th Round match between Burnley and Lincoln City FC. 

A betting firm, licensed by the Gambling Commission, identified and reported suspicious betting activity that the player would receive a yellow card during the match. 

The FA’s robust action was taken as a result of collaborative work between the Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit, the FA and the betting industry.

Gambling Commission acting Executive Director, Richard Watson, said: “Professional footballers, and indeed those in other sports, must pay attention to Bradley Wood’s ban by the FA. This clear breach of FA rules is not acceptable and damages the integrity of sport. Through working with gambling firms, sports governing bodies and the public we can work hard to continue to keep crime out of British gambling and sport.” 

We reported last week on the public statement relating to the Gambling Commission’s review of the operating licence of Tabcorp UK Limited (trading as Sunbets) following a Commission investigation into, amongst other things, an FA Cup tie between Sutton United v Arsenal on 20 February 2017 in which Tabcorp offered a novelty market (resulting in the so-called “pie-gate” incident) that carried a risk of inciting an individual to breach a sports governing body’s rules. Under the penalty package imposed by the Commission, new conditions were attached to Tabcorp’s operating licence and it was required to pay £84,000 to socially responsible causes.

In relation to that matter, it was alleged by the FA that, in breach of FA Rule E1(b), conduct in or around the 83rd minute of an FA Cup tie between Sutton United FC and Arsenal FC by the football player involved in the “pie-gate” incident, Wayne Shaw of Sutton United FC, constituted a breach of FA Rule E5(a) or, in the alternative, a breach of FA Rule E3(1). In September 2017, Mr Shaw was immediately suspended from all football and football related activity for a period of two months and fined £375.