Businesswoman Holding Football Under Arm

Can Football Club Employees Bet on a Match?

Much talk regarding football teams revolves around the players and manager but so many other individuals are part of a club’s success (or failure for that matter). Whether it be physios, coaches, scouts or those working away in offices or the cleaning and maintenance staff, professional clubs tend to have a lengthy list of employees. Despite many of them never setting foot even close to the pitch, some face restrictions when it comes to gambling on football.

You may be surprised to hear but even staff members that have no direct link to the players, say someone working in the ticket office, can find themselves under betting restrictions. Rules do vary based on individual nations but the English FA have taken an especially strict stance on the matter in an effort to further reduce the risk of match-fixing.

What Is FIFA’s View On Employee Bets

Code of Conduct in Magnifying Glass

FIFA’s Code of Ethics makes it an offence for various groups of people within football to make any sort of wager on a football match, even if it is on a game being played on the other side of the globe. Not everyone involved at a football club is bound by the FIFA Code of Ethics policing gambling rules, however. Specifically, FIFA state that:

“all officials, referees, players as well as match agents and intermediaries, are subject to the Code”

You will notice here that this list does not include all employees of a club so many staff members would still be free to gamble on football under FIFA rules. Many national football associations do not impose any additional rules on top of this, although they are free to do so. What this means is that a lot of people employed by a football club will never find themselves in trouble for having a flutter on the sport.

English FA Takes Tough Stance

3D Prohibited Sign Against Grey Background

In 2014, promoted as a measure to combat match-fixing, the English Football Association tightened its rules on who was able to bet on football. Under the new regulations, “club employees” were prevented from gambling on any football-related matters anywhere in the world. So, an employee at Norwich City could not even have placed a wager on a K League fixture in South Korea, without running the risk of punishment.

There is no complete blanket ban though as it depends on what club an employee is working at. For lower league clubs, there is more flexibility given to betting. The publicly available 2022-23 FA Handbook states that lower league club employees can bet on football providing it has zero connection to their own team. The relevant text comes from section 8.4 which applies to “any other person who is a Participant by virtue only of their involvement at a Club below Step 4 in the National League System”. They go on to state that:

“A Participant shall not bet, either directly or indirectly, or instruct, permit, cause or enable any person to bet on – E8.4.1 the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in or in connection with, a football match or competition: (a) in which the Participant is participating, or has participated in that season; or (b) in which the Participant has any influence, either direct or indirect;”

As for how ‘participant’ is defined, the FA use an extremely broad an all-encompassing definition. They state that:

“Employees and Officials of a Club are deemed to participate in every football match played by that Club while they are so employed.”

So, an employee at a club below step four in the National League system can bet on football providing it is unrelated to their team, for example a match from a foreign division. This is true providing they do not have any sort of influence of the fixture, which would be extremely unlikely. For employees at clubs at a higher level than this, such participants are subject to rules E8.1, E8.2 and E8.3 instead. These points basically restrict individuals from betting on any football-related betting activity anywhere in the world.

Are The English FA Too Cautious?

Blank Smartphone on Football

There a couple of arguments that support the FA’s strong stance on gambling even if it does negatively impact some football staff who would like to have an occasional bet on the sport they love. Firstly, there is less ambiguity with a global ban as you do not have to decide if your club is ‘connected’ or ‘linked’ to another fixture. Saying that all football bets, on any match across the world, is off the cards (for anyone employed at a top for league) is clear-cut and hence leaves little room for grey areas to appear.

Not only can this help reduce the chance of match-fixing but it prevents people within club benefitting from insider information. You do not need to be a teammate, physio or manager to find out that that a star player will be missing the weekend’s fixture. This was highlighted by a Fantasy Football (FF) enthusiast who noticed that several Aston Villa players and members of staff quickly transferred Jack Grealish from their FF team. Included in the list was a Villa performance analyst, so it does highlight how quickly news can spread within a team.

Other Fantasy Football fans were quick to pounce on this update and many started to put money on Villa’s opponents to win the game. Normally though, members of the public would not be privy to such crucial information, only people inside the club would be. This gives club employees a distinctly unfair advantage when it comes to betting. You may not think a tiny minority of people having an edge of over the bookies is a big issue, but it is of the detriment of other punters.

Lastly, a measure like this can only help reduce the chance of any kind of match-fixing, even if only by a tiny degree. Regardless of their role, many employees within a club can get the chance to speak to a player. It is not that difficult to imagine the club chef forming a friendship with a player and asking them to pick up a yellow card so they can earn a few quid. Because markets like this are so widely available and can be so easily manipulated, they would not be too hard to exploit. This is not to say such arrangements do not happen, but a ban on gambling does at least mean there is an obstacle in the way and punishments in place if wrongdoing is discovered.

What About Other Nations?

Black and White World Map on FootballIt would be wrong to assume that other countries follow the English FA’s rules on club employees. By global standards, what the English FA has done is strict and most employees elsewhere are able to bet if they are not closely involved with the team itself. The Scottish FA, for example, in their handbook, state

“A club, official, Team Official or other member of Team Staff, player, referee or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall not gamble in any way on a football match.”

You should note here that they have used the term ‘Team Staff’ rather than ‘Club Staff’. This is an important distinction as not everyone employed by a club falls within the scope of the rules. Team Staff are described as:

“those individuals, other than players, authorised to represent a club within the technical area at any match (including the Team Officials)”.

So, it would not include someone working in the kitchen or one of the website developers.

Across the globe in New Zealand, their policy is that:

“No Relevant NZF (New Zealand Football) Person shall Bet, gamble or enter into any other form of financial speculation on any Match or Event under the jurisdiction of, or connected to, NZF”

Their definition of a ‘relevant person’ includes:

“Any coach, trainer … or any other person who is employed by, represents or is otherwise affiliated to (or who has been employed by, has represented or has been otherwise affiliated to in the preceding twenty-four (24) months) any NZF Representative Team.”

So, staff at a New Zealand club cannot bet on action within the country but they are welcome to bet on football that is taking place in another country.

What Punishments Do Employees Face?

Office Interview

The answer to this will depend on individual circumstances, just as when a player is found guilty of breaching betting rules. Any hearing will consider all relevant factors and look at which matches were bet on and how much was bet. An employee regularly betting on their own matches will be judged more harshly than someone betting on a league in another country (providing this is against the rules of course). Do not expect anything over the top though unless there is strong evidence that actual match-fixing has taken place.

Even if a club employee bets on their own team to win, there is realistically no way they could influence this outcome so it is unlikely to be judged too poorly. Betting on their own team to lose, or a specific player to get a card etc. looks much worse as there is a possibility of players doing this on purpose. It is highly unlikely though that a club employee could ever give a player a sufficient bribe for match-fixing given the discrepancy in their monthly earnings.

When Morton’s physio was charged with breaching betting rules on six occasions over a four-year period, she was hit with an eight-game suspension. It was not stated whether or not she was still paid by the club in this time but there was no direct fine to pay. Just a few days earlier, the Greenock club also heard the fate of their kit man, Andy Bryan, who was given a 12-game for a gambling-related offences.

Specific details of each case were not made public nor did the press do any digging as these are not high-profile incidents football fans care about. Even without knowing the facts though you would not say that either ruling was particularly severe and it seems Morton themselves did not take further action. Betting may be against the rules for club staff but this does not mean it is punished like an extremely serious offence.

Difficult To Police

Football Goal Net Close Up

There are so few reported cases of club employees getting themselves into trouble for gambling on football but do not assume this is because everyone is following the rules. There are so many people employed by football clubs, especially at the highest levels, many of whom will have a keen interest in the sport. It is rather unrealistic to think, therefore, that none of them are placing bets, either indirectly or directly.

Not only is there very little appetite to allocate time and money to crack down on club employees betting a few quid at the weekend but in some cases, it would be virtually impossible to do anyway. If someone is betting in cash at a physical bookmaker, then this is effectively an entirely anonymous exchange. It is also impossible to know if someone is simply getting a friend to place bets on their behalf, especially if any money is paid back and forth in cash.