The always controversial Joey Barton, himself currently serving a 13 month long ban for betting on games, has said he believes gambling is "culturally ingrained" in English football.
The 35-year-old was banned after admitting placing bets on 1,260 matches and accepted that he was right to be punished - but has now claimed he is not the only professional footballer to be in breach of the FA's gambling rules - the FA tightened its regulations in 2014 to stop players in England’s top eight divisions betting on any football-related activity, anywhere in the world.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the former Manchester City and Burnley midfielder insisted that the issue runs deep in English football.
I think, and I'm being conservative, I think 50 per cent of the playing staff would be taken out [banned], because it's culturally ingrained. You'd have half the players out for sure.
Barton is usually one for hyperbole so, 50% seems a little high but, he continued:
The FA think I'm the only footballer who has ever bet on football ever. But the reality of it says that that is not the case. I've seen [it] with my own eyes. I'd place bets for other footballers on my accounts. I would say, on a conservative estimate, being in professional dressing rooms where there's been readily available cash for over 15 years, you'd have half the league out.
Barton insists though, that a clear distinction between match fixing and gambling in important.
The [gambling] rules have become more and more stringent. Ultimately we’ve ended up now with a totalitarian kind of ban – no football betting anywhere. Where we’ve got it wrong is we’ve got the gambling rules mixed up with the match-fixing rules. Because match-fixing is fundamentally wrong and challenges the integrity of the sport. 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.
Barton's 13 month ban ends of June 1st when he will be available to play again. He hasn't announced any plans to retire as of yet so this summer could see the divisive Scouser looking for a new club to ply his trade.