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Jordan Stevens ruling shows Football Association’s lack of awareness

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This is an issue that needs solving with education, rather than isolation.

Western Sydney v Leeds United - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

19 year old Leeds United midfielder Jordan Stevens has received a 6 week ban from all football-related activities and a £1,200 fine for placing bets on over 50 games, including 5 Leeds games. The youngster admitted to the charges from the FA and, along with the club, aided in their investigation.

Of the five Leeds games that Stevens bet on, three of them were betting on Leeds to win whilst the other two were on both teams to score. These five games were judged to be the greatest problem of all the bets he placed so the verdict would be based on these.

Western Sydney v Leeds United - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

Leeds’ Head of Performance and Medicine Rob Price provided the panel with a witness statement, saying that Stevens has struggled to integrate himself at the club and that he suffers from homesickness, anxiety and boredom. Stevens arrived at Leeds from Forest Green Rovers in February 2018 on an initial two and a half year deal. Coming from Gloucester, it certainly appears that the move so far away from friends and family has not been the easiest and even with the added training under Marcelo Bielsa, the youngster has a lot of time on his hands.

Openly admitting that he knew it was wrong and this being a first offence, a 6 week total ban seems a harsh punishment for a 19 year player. In fact, the decision once again goes to show that the FA is out of touch with many of the issues that it faces. Should Jordan Stevens face some form of punishment? Of course, that’s not the issue. The issue is the decision to ban someone from even training when the club have spoken about his issues integrating himself with his teammate and being homesick.

Derby County v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Play-off - Semi Final - First Leg - Pride Park Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

In a statement Leeds’ Chief Executive Angus Kinnear said:

“To prevent a young footballer from taking part in any football activities at such a critical period of his career is a disproportionate punishment following a foolish mistake from a young player.

“We are particularly disappointed that the sanction was determined by two former professional footballers who we hoped would have had a better understanding of the impact of their decision.”

This is just another issue that the FA have dealt with in a way that has left many scratching their heads. Millwall FC were fined £10,000 for racist chanting whilst Huddersfield Town were fined £50,000 for using an oversized sponsor on the shirt for a pre-season friendly which was later revealed to be a hoax and part of Paddy Power’s ‘Save Our Shirt’ campaign.

The discrepancy is believed to be down to the additional costs to implement a plan to crackdown on racism at Millwall by hiring more stewards and additional CCTV whilst the FA also warned Huddersfield of the consequences of wearing the branded shirt.

Rochdale v Huddersfield Town - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by John Early/Getty Images

However, Huddersfield haven’t been repeatedly in breach of these rules on more than the single occasion. Meanwhile, Millwall have had four reported racist incidents in 18 months and little has changed. It’s very easy to see why so many people find the FA so disagreeable. Racism should be the number one priority of all footballing entities and yet it seems that they have bigger issues with gambling and sponsorship, in spite of the involvement of betting companies already at play in the game.

Clearly gambling in football is an issue, as demonstrated by the number of cases in recent years. More needs to go into educating players about the consequences of gambling on games, whether it’s their team or not. The FA also needs to start prioritising the issues that it feels are the biggest threat to the game and realistically, if it’s not racism, there needs to be a huge change at the top of the game.