Date: 15th September 2019 at 8:00pm
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With the news last week that Leeds United youngster Jordan Stevens would serve a ban of six weeks for breaches of the Football Association rules on gambling in the game of football, plenty of fans have already had their say on the severity of the punishment given what the winger actually did.

The 19-year-old former Forest Green Rovers starlet made his debut for manager Marcelo Bielsa’s first team squad in the 2018/19 campaign as a substitute in our defeat in January to Stoke City and having placed 59 bets that breached the regulations, he accepted that charge and as well as being banned from all football activities (including training) he was also fined £1200.

The ban expires on October 10 and speaking ahead of the clash at the weekend against Barnsley, Bielsa obviously faced questions in his pre-game press conference about the incident, and although Bielsa knew the rules were there for good reason, he admitted the punishment was harsher because the youngster would need another two or three weeks on top, in order to regain proper fitness levels.

“The mistake he made was in the rules. With the ban that he received, there are a lot of possibilities. I think it’s good there’s a sanction for everyone to remember that if you do this mistake, afterwards you will have consequences. But because the ban does not allow him to train, this makes the punishment and the ban longer in practice. Because if you are a professional and you cannot train with the group afterwards you will need to or three more weeks to regain the fitness. So I don’t know if the people who took the decision of the punishment (recognised) that if he cannot play or train for six weeks, afterwards you have two more weeks where he is not going to be able to compete or he can compete but without a good fitness.”

Bielsa went on to say.

“I don’t feel I have the authority to make an opinion because I ignore the English culture in this sense. But always when you are trying to protect there is a transparency. I like this happening, it’s the way to protect the sport and afterwards you can make an opinion about a lot of things. I don’t ignore that there are other things that you can argue, I simply prefer to avoid this argument.”

Bielsa is right, ultimately, despite the protestation of fans here given the punishment, the rules are clear and players of any and all ages need to be aware. Maybe the sanction is on the tough side, but given the risks of gambling in the game and the perceived implications for players being involved in that – it’s a harsh lesson I’m sure the lad will regret but remember well.

We can certainly talk about the prominence of the betting industry in the game – after all – our title sponsor is 32Red and even in the case of a player betting for or against their own side (even if they play) it doesn’t ipso facto mean their own performance would be affected.

But it’s the optics, and that’s what Bielsa seems to accept, as fans should as well.

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