The Football Association has been accused of giving a “disproportionate” punishment to a non-league manager banned for betting against his team.
Frome Town, who play in England’s seventh tier, say that Nick Bunyard’s three-year ban was “excessive” in comparison to more high-profile cases.
The 36-year-old was also fined £3,000 – he has since announced his retirement.
An FA spokesperson said: “It is of the utmost importance that the integrity of football is upheld at all levels.”
An independent commission found that Bunyard placed 45 bets against Frome and his former club Paulton Rovers from September 2014 to April 2016.
FA rules prohibit “all those involved in the game” from betting on football “that takes place anywhere in the world”.
However, a Frome Town club statement claimed the organisation was “driving people out” of the sport at grassroots level to set an example, while Bunyard described betting as “an epidemic amongst footballers” and said he has been “hung out to dry”.
“I’m not a lone person putting bets on,” he told BBC Somerset. “It is part of the culture of football.
“I don’t know whether [the FA] are really accepting of that fact.
“I don’t know whether they genuinely want to do anything about it or whether they just want to have a high-profile case to say, ‘he got caught and he got banned’ – but if they think that will deter players, I know for a fact it hasn’t.”
Tottenham’s Andros Townsend, Cameron Jerome – on loan at Crystal Palace from Stoke last season – and Dan Gosling, who has joined Bournemouth this summer, are among those who have breached current betting regulations.
Winger Townsend was fined £18,000 in June 2013, striker Jerome £50,000 last August and midfielder Gosling £30,000 in March.
The FA spokesperson added: “Individuals who threaten the image of the game and place bets on their own team to lose – as is the case here – are committing serious breaches of the FA’s betting rules, and will be sanctioned accordingly.
“The FA issues education to participants of the game in respect of its rules in relation to betting and other forms of misconduct.
“This education had been sent to Mr Bunyard’s club prior to the start of last season.”
Frome Town said the manager “deserved to be reprimanded in some way”, but criticised the way the case was handled, citing a number of delays to proceedings.
They also claimed they were given “no opportunity as a club, or Nick as an individual to challenge the statement released”.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37944895