Ivan Toney said the Football Association’s handling of the investigation into his gambling breeches was “spiteful,” adding that he is targeting a spot in England’s next World Cup squad after missing out on last year’s tournament in Qatar.
The Brentford striker, who finished the season as the third-highest scorer in the Premier League, was handed an eight-month ban and fined £50,000 ($62,850) after admitting to 232 rule breaches, which included betting on matches he played in.
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Toney was charged by the FA in November and missed out on a place in the England squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
“People try to break people down,” the 27-year-old told the Kick Game YouTube channel. “How it come out, just before the England camp, obviously missing out on the World Cup. … In a way, it was kind of like: ‘Get out now so you don’t go [away with] England.’
“And then all of a sudden they want to wait until the end of the season. … But it is what it is. They wanted to do it that way. I call it a bit spiteful. You just have to get on with it.
“I feel that was a bigger punishment, even though I am missing eight months of football. That was a bigger punishment, missing out on the World Cup. It’s everybody’s dream. I believe in myself and hopefully I can be at the next one.”
The FA’s independent regulatory commission said the sanction had been reduced to eight months from 11 after taking into consideration his young age and his gambling addiction.
Toney, who has been capped once for England, cannot play for club or country until Jan. 16, 2024, but can return to training for the final four months of his suspension, starting Sept. 17.
“The support is good, but how I am, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,” Toney said. “I done what I done before, the punishment is the punishment and get on with it. Like I said, I just have to focus on when I come back training. I want to be a different animal when I come back. It’s going to be frightening.”
When asked about whether the sport should reconsider its close professional relationship with betting companies, Toney said: “Of course, I feel that it should. People out there are painting a certain picture of me, fair enough, but people that know me know who I am and what I’m about. The majority of football teams now are sponsored by gambling companies, so weigh it up.
“If the rules are not to bet, you shouldn’t be betting, but for people that need help there should be more around them to stop them going in that direction.
“When the time is right, I’ll speak out on the majority of things and clear a few things up that need to be cleared. That is not now, unfortunately.”