Three Lions ace Ivan Toney investigated by FA over match-betting ahead of this month’s World Cup
THREE Lions ace Ivan Toney is at the centre of a match-betting probe.
The £50million Brentford striker is being investigated by Football Association officials over allegations of wagers placed on games.
Toney, 26, is widely expected to be in England’s squad for the World Cup in Qatar, which starts a fortnight today.
Astonishingly, despite the ongoing investigation, he was picked for Three Lions duty during recent Nations League matches — but did not play.
The allegations are believed to relate solely to the period when Toney was at one of his previous clubs. A source said: “Ivan is aware of the investigation. He is concerned but is adamant that he has done nothing wrong.
“The FA is duty-bound to act fully on allegations they receive. But it is obviously a highly sensitive matter for the FA as he is a potential candidate for the England World Cup squad.”
No charges have been brought by FA chiefs against the player.
There is no suggestion of any criminal activity by Toney — who also previously played for Newcastle United — or that he attempted to fix the outcome of any match.
However, under FA rules, all professional men and top women players face a worldwide ban on all football betting.
The laws are so strict they include gambling on transfers, manager jobs and team selection and apply to players and managers, match officials and club staff.
They state that players “shall not bet, either directly or indirectly, or instruct, permit, cause or enable any person to bet on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in or in connection with a football match or competition.
“Or any other matter concerning or related to football anywhere in the world, including, for example and without limitation, the transfer of players, employment of managers, team selection or disciplinary matters.”
Toney — regarded as one of the world’s best penalty-takers — was selected for Three Lions duty for Nations League matches against Germany and Italy in September.
Despite hailing Toney’s place at the training camp, England boss Southgate failed to use him, then appeared to cast doubt on his place in the squad. Southgate said: “I understand the push as it is so close to the World Cup but there is life for Ivan Toney beyond the World Cup as well. He’s very much in the frame and what he does with his club between now and then is also really important.”
The fact that he was selected by FA bosses while he was being probed by the investigators from the same organisation will prompt questions about the governing body’s handling of the matter.
If Toney is found to have breached FA rules his selection would be in conflict with the FA’s commitment to transparency over betting.
Its website says: “The FA wants to preserve what is great in the beautiful game and has devised rules regarding betting in football to help protect the integrity and future of football.”
It adds: “The FA, the Gambling Commission and betting companies have sophisticated systems to monitor and detect breaches of the betting rules. These organisations advise us of issues that arise in the cash, telephone and online betting markets.
“If found guilty, then this can lead to financial penalties, suspensions, and in some instances, lifetime bans.
“It is your responsibility to make sure you know the rules and help support the collective effort from the football authorities, players, clubs and officials, to protect the integrity of the game. The rules have never been clearer or easier to understand.”
A source said: “It seems incredible that a high-profile star could be chosen for England duty at the same time that he is being investigated over betting.
“England footballers are role models for millions of youngsters and their conduct in relation to the sport must reflect the status they are given.
“Fans have a right to know if a star player is being probed — their focus must be entirely on winning the World Cup with no distractions.”
Tory MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: “These are serious allegations being made.
“Football needs to be transparent.
“Any allegation of this nature needs to be investigated and there is a clear public interest. This is all very worrying given England are about to compete in the World Cup.”
Although there is no suggestion Toney is a gambling addict, Gareth Southgate is concerned about the impact of gambling on players.
Southgate witnessed first-hand its impact on ex-England team-mates Paul Merson, Tony Adams and Paul Gascoigne when he was a player.
Before taking up his current role, he said: “Gambling is an addictive pastime. If it starts to get out of hand individuals would need to deal with that. I think it’s for the national manager to step in if they feel there is an issue. People have always gambled in squads and to be honest sometimes in the squads I was involved in it got people together.
“But some of the sums being spoken at the moment would be disturbing no matter what you’re earning.
“There is a duty for everybody involved to make sure those problems don’t get out of hand.” The FA’s far-reaching regulations were put in place after football was rocked by a string of betting controversies in 2014.
A number of top players have been hit with bans — although they all involved more serious conduct than that being investigated over Toney.
In 2020 ex-Chelsea star Daniel Sturridge was banned for four months and fined £150,000 for texting brother Leon to bet on his possible move from Liverpool to Sevilla.
In 2019 Newcastle and England full-back Kieran Trippier was banned for ten weeks and fined £70,000 for WhatsApping pals “Lump on if you want” over his rumoured move to Atletico Madrid.
In 2017, controversial star Joey Barton was banned for 18 months after placing 1,260 bets on matches between 2006 and 2013 — including games in which he was a player.
The most recent controversy saw ex-Reading defender Kynan Isaac banned for 12 years in October for deliberately earning a yellow card in an FA Cup first-round tie.
He was hit with a ten-year ban for the scam with pals and a further two years for failing to co-operate with the FA investigation and further betting.
Toney’s agent and the FA were approached for comment.
SPOT-KICK KING’S RISE TO THE TOP
By Michael Hamilton
IVAN Toney has risen from relative obscurity to the brink of England’s World Cup squad.
He has won plaudits for his swashbuckling style and has scored eight times this season for Premier League side Brentford.
Toney joined Newcastle in 2015 as a teenager but only made two appearances for the Toon, who sent him out on loans. He plied his trade at Wigan, Scunthorpe and Barnsley.
He moved to Peterborough in 2018 — scoring 40 times in 76 appearances before switching to Brentford in 2020 for a modest £5million.
Toney scored 31 Championship goals to fire the West London club into the Premier League. His good form continued last season as he scored 12 times.
He has an impressive penalty record – netting 25 of 26 spot-kicks.
A World Cup place would take him to new heights.