English Football’s Longest Bans

The most comprehensive list of bans and punishments in English football anywhere on the web.

Last updated: 9 May 2018

428447_heroaIn descending order of seriousness:

Jimmy Gauld (ex-player, most recently for Mansfield Town), David Layne, Peter Swan and Tony Kay (all Sheff Weds at the time of the offences), plus others: all banned for life and given varying prison sentences for betting on their own team to lose and match fixing between 1962 and 1964. They were convicted in 1965 and most of the bans were lifted on appeal after the FA changed their rules to allow reviews after seven years. The full list was:

  • Jimmy Gauld – 4 years in prison
  • Brian Phillips (Mansfield Town) and Jack Fountain (York City) – 15 months in prison
  • Sammy Chapman (Mansfield Town), Ron Howells (Walsall) and Ken Thomson (Hartlepools Utd) – 6 months in prison
  • David Layne, Peter Swan and Tony Kay (all Sheff Weds) – 4 months in prison

Dick Beattie of St Mirren also received a prison sentence, in his case 9 months. Gauld received the longest sentence as ringleader, but much of the attention focussed on the Wednesday players as that club was in the (old) First Division and Tony Kay was an England international, League Champion with Everton, and expected to be in the 1966 World Cup squad.

The Sheffield Wednesday match in question, against Ipswich Town, took place in 1962, but the skulduggery was not uncovered until Gauld sold his story to the Sunday People in 1964. Ipswich were League Champions so it wasn’t unreasonable to assume they’d beat Wednesday. Gauld persuaded Layne, Swan and Kay to bet against their own club, and the match ended in a 2-0 Ipswich win, though Kay was named Man of the Match! By this time all this came to light, Esmond Million and Keith Williams (both Bristol Rovers) had both been banned for life along with Brian Phillips for trying to fix a match between Bristol Rovers and Bradford Park Avenue in 1963. Million and Williams allegedly took bribes to throw the match (after being approached by Phillips, on behalf of Gauld’s gambling ring), though it ended in a 2-2 draw. All three were prosecuted and fined. Million left football for good and Williams eventually emigrated to South Africa to continue his career.

Enoch West, Sandy Turnbull and Arthur Whalley (all Man Utd), and Thomas Fairfoul, Tom Miller, Bob Pursell and Jackie Sheldon (all Liverpool): banned for life for match fixing and betting on the result of a game, 1915. All apart from West had their bans lifted in 1919 in recognition of service to their country during World War 1 (Turnbull was killed in action but his ban was lifted posthumously). All seven were encouraged to sign up for military service with the suggestion that this would get their punishments rescinded. West was the only one who didn’t sign up and instead protested his innocence, but his ban stood until 1945 when it was rescinded as part of a general post-WW2 amnesty, making it just under 30 years in total.

Nick Bunyard, manager of Frome Town: 2 years 7 months and £3,000 for betting offences, including betting against his own team, 2016. The ban was handed down in November 2016 and runs to 1 July 2019. Bunyard placed over 90 bets in a 3-year period, including 45 on matches of teams he was managing at the time, Frome Town and Paulton Rovers. Apparently 8 of these bets were against his own team.

Joey Barton (Burnley at the time of the sentence, but numerous other clubs at the time of the offences): 13 months and £30,000 for breaking FA rules on gambling; specifically by betting on 1,260 football matches between 2006 and 2016, some of which he played in; 2017. The ban was originally 18 months, but was reduced on appeal, on the grounds that Barton’s career would be ended if he was unable to play at the start of the 2018-19 season.

Billy Cook (Oldham Athletic): 12 months for refusing to leave the pitch after being sent off against Middlesbrough for persistent fouling, 1915.

Jose Baxter (Sheffield Utd): 12 months for failing a drugs test for cocaine, 2016. This was a longer ban than other players have received for similar offences as the previous year he’d tested positive for ecstasy but been given a suspended sentence after claiming his drink was spiked on a night out. He tested positive for cocaine in February 2016 and was then suspended by his club for the rest of the season until his contract ran out. The hearing didn’t take place till August, so his ban covered the whole of the 2016-17 season, meaning he was unable to look for a new club until summer 2017 and missed a minimum of 18 months of football.

James (‘Jay’) Harris (Accrington Stanley): 12 months and £5,000 for betting his own club would lose to Bury, 2009. Four other players received lesser sentences for the same offence, as Harris was the only one of the five who actually played in the match:
David Mannix (Accrington Stanley): 10 months and £4,000
Peter Cavanagh (Accrington Stanley): 8 months and £3,500
Robert Williams (Accrington Stanley): 8 months and £3,500
Andrew Mangan (Bury): 5 months and £2,000
The FA stopped short of charging anyone with match-fixing, but had “serious concerns that the outcome of the match may have been fixed”.

Eric Cantona (Man Utd): 9 months and 120 hours community service for a kung fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan, 1995.

Mark Bosnich (Chelsea): 9 months after failing a drugs test for cocaine, 2003.

Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd): 8 months for “forgetting” (he said) to turn up for a drugs test, 2003.

Adrian Mutu (Chelsea): 7 months and £20,000 for failing a drugs test for cocaine, 2004. Subsequently sacked by Chelsea, who won compensation of over €17m for breach of contract. This has not been paid, and is still subject to legal appeals by Mutu.

Frank Barson (Watford): 6 months for allegedly kicking an opponent, which was denied by both him and the opposing team, and in spite of a 5,000 signature petition presented to the FA, 1928. I have been sent this letter by someone on twitter calling themselves Jimmy Catton (@cattoncollect), which is apparently from the referee of this match to the FA, reporting the incident. You can read about the real Jimmy Catton here. Frank Barson ban letter 1928

Kolo Toure (Man City): 6 months for failing a drugs test, which he claimed was caused by taking his wife’s diet pills, 2011.

Vinnie Jones (Wimbledon): 6 months, suspended for 3 years, and £20,000 for releasing a video glamourising violence and dirty tricks, 1992.

Joss Labadie (Dagenham & Redbridge): 6 months for biting the finger of Stevenage defender Ronnie Henry, 2015. This was Labadie’s second such offence – see below.

Kevin Lewis (Man Utd): 5 months after being sent off in a Central League (reserve) game, December 1971. He was banned until the end of the season, with the length of punishment being due to previous bans of three weeks in 1969 and then four weeks and a £25 fine in January 1971. He was in the Man Utd first team squad for 1970-71, but never made a first team appearance.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool at the time of the offence, Barcelona for most of the penalty): 4 months suspension from ‘all football-related activity’, including team training and entering stadiums, plus 9 international matches and a fine of CHF100,000 (£65,680), all implemented by Fifa for biting Italy’s Georgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup; he would have missed nine 2014-15 Premier League games, three Champions League group stage matches and a League Cup fixture had he stayed at Liverpool.

James Gotheridge (Newton Heath): 3 months for abusing the referee in a match against Walsall Town Swifts, 1889. See the newspaper cutting from the Sunderland Daily Echo dated November 12, 1889 – they have the player’s name as ‘Gutteridge’, but considering they didn’t know his first name it seems a fair bet that his Wikipedia page has it correct. I’ve ignored the other bans listed, as detail is also sketchy and at the time these were all amateur teams outside the Football League. (Newton Heath eventually became Manchester Utd, Newcastle West End joined with Newcastle East End to form Newcastle United, and Birtley disappeared from league football shortly after the date of this report.) old-time-bans

Joey Barton (Man City): 12 matches (6 suspended), 4 month suspended prison sentence, 200 hours of community service and £25,000 for ABH on team mate Ousmane Dabo in training, 2007

Joey Barton (QPR): 12 matches for elbowing Carlos Tevez, kneeing Sergio Aguero and trying to head-butt Vincent Kompany in the space of a minute, v Man City, 2012.

Paulo Di Canio (Sheff Weds): 11 games and £10,000 for pushing over referee Paul Alcock in a league match against Arsenal, 1998.

Billy Bremner (Leeds) and Kevin Keegan (Liverpool): both banned from the start of the season until the end of September, approximately 8 weeks (resulting in 11 domestic matches) for fighting and dissent in the Charity Shield, 1974.Charity Shield 74 Liverpool Leeds twb22 (3)Joss Labadie (Torquay Utd): 10 matches and £2,000 for biting Ollie Banks of Chesterfield, 2014. Labadie was also alleged to have bitten a second player, Armand Gnanduillet, in the same game.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool): 10 games for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, plus an undisclosed fine from his club, 2013. Suarez previously served a seven match ban for biting while an Ajax player in November 2010.

David Prutton (Southampton): 10 games and £6,000 for pushing referee Alan Wiley after being sent off against Arsenal, 2005.

Calvin Andrew (Rochdale): 9 matches for elbowing Peter Clarke of Oldham Athletic, 2016. Andrew launched himself at Clarke, but the assault was missed by the officials at the time. The FA handed out a 12-match ban after Andrew admitted the offence and footage had been reviewed, but it was reduced to 9 on appeal.

Peter Dobing (Stoke): 9 weeks (described as a ‘record ban’ in the newspapers) and £150 for three bookings in the first half of the season, while under suspended sentence for previous bookings, 1971. Dobing broke his leg in the match in which his third booking came, and was injured for the whole period of his suspension, which was described by his manager Tony Waddington as “quite lenient”.

Brian O’Neil and Dennis Hollywood (both Southampton): both apparently banned for 9 weeks in 1971, but I have no further details. It does seem as though there was something of a clampdown by the FA at the time, with quite a few bans of this sort of length.

Steve Walsh (Leicester City): 9 matches for breaking the jaw of David Geddis of Shrewsbury Town, 1987. Walsh later went on the hold the joint league record for red cards, with 13.

Paul Davis (Arsenal): 9 games and £3,000 for breaking the jaw of Glenn Cockerill of Southampton with a punch off the ball, 1988. Probably a bit more out of character for Davis than for Steve Walsh the year before!

Frank Sinclair (West Brom): 9 games for a push and a clash of heads with referee Paul Alcock (see also Paolo di Canio, above) after Alcock awarded a penalty to opponents Exeter City, 1992.

Hughie Gallacher (Chelsea): 2 months for using “filthy” language at a referee, 1931.

Bob Turnbull (Chelsea): 2 months for “an incident in a match at South Shields”, 1926. (These last two entries from The Chelsea FC Miscellany by Rick Glanvill. These were the longest bans for Chelsea until Mutu’s 7-month ban for drugs).

Mark Dennis (QPR): 53 days for violent conduct that led to the eleventh sending-off of his career, 1987. Dennis elbowed Ossie Ardiles in the face. He was sent off again the following year before QPR got fed up with him and offloaded him to Crystal Palace.

Peter Osgood (Chelsea): 8 weeks and £150 for being booked six times in the space of a year, 1971. Bookings were a little harder to come by in those days. Osgood had been booked eight times in two years, but never sent off.

Ben Thatcher (Man City): 8 games for elbowing Portsmouth’s Pedro Mendes, knocking him out, 2006.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool): 8 games and £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra, 2011.
For those who say, “Why an 18-month ban for Joey Barton for betting offences, when Suarez only got 8 games and John Terry got 4 for racism?”, I say let’s see how long the ban for racism would be if they did it 1,260 times over a ten year period.

John Fitzpatrick (Man Utd), Don Welbourne (Scunthorpe) and Graham Rathbone (Grimsby): all banned for eight weeks in the first half of the 1969-70 season for picking up three bookings each. Derek Dougan of Wolves faced similar sanction, but had two weeks of his sentence suspended.

Duncan Ferguson (Everton): 7 matches, three for a red card for violent conduct (punching Wigan’s Paul Scharner) and a further four for pushing Pascal Chimbonda in the face after his sending off, 2006.

Chris Kamara (Swindon Town): 6 weeks for elbowing Shrewsbury Town’s Jim Melrose, breaking Melrose’s cheekbone, 1988. Kamara became the first player in England to be convicted in court for on-field violence. He was fined £1,200 for causing grievous bodily harm and also ordered to pay £250 compensation. His claims of being provoked by racially abusive comments were not accepted.

Ronnie Rees (Notts Forest): 6 weeks in 1970, apparently, but I can’t find confirmation or any detail of the offence.

Patrick Vieira (Arsenal): 6 matches and £45,000 (a record amount at the time) for spitting at Neil Ruddock followed by an altercation with a policeman in the tunnel after being sent off, 1999.

Jonny Evans (Man Utd) and Papiss Cisse (Newcastle): banned for 6 and 7 matches respectively for spitting at each other, 2015. Evans spat first but denied the charge; Cisse admitted it and apologised but got a longer ban as he was banned earlier in the same season for violent conduct (elbowing Everton’s Seamus Coleman). Evans claimed afterwards that he habitually spat without realising, and was consequently not even aware of it at the time, hence his denial of the charge despite obvious video evidence.

Samu Saiz (Leeds Utd): 6 matches for spitting on Newport County midfielder Robbie Willmott, Jan 2018. Saiz had previously been accused and cleared of spitting at Port Vale manager Michael Brown in August 2017.

Arthur Masuaku (West Ham Utd): 6 matches for spitting at Wigan’s Nick Powell, Jan 2018.

David Batty (Newcastle): 6 matches for pushing referee David Elleray after being sent off in a match against Blackburn, 1998.

Ian Ure (Arsenal) and Denis Law (Man Utd): 6 weeks plus loss of wages for the same period for fighting (which resulted in 6 league matches for Ure and 7 for Law, plus both being unavailable for a Scotland international v Wales and Law out for two European Cup games), 1967. At the time this was the heaviest ban for any on-field offences for 20 years and also the longest ban the FA had ever given to an Arsenal player. Law in 1967 was Britain’s highest paid player.

Mousa Dembele (Spurs): 6 matches for trying to gouge Diego Costa’s left eye in the ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’, the match that lost Tottenham their title chance in April 2016. Nine Spurs players were booked, but the ref missed Dembele’s action, though its seriousness was slightly undermined by Costa immediately holding his right eye afterwards. Dembele accepted the charge without contest, but his club’s argument that three matches was enough was not accepted. Spurs are not believed to have imposed a fine.

Roy Keane (Man Utd): 5 weeks and £150,000 for comments about his pre-meditated attack on Alfie Inge Haaland in his autobiography, 2002 (added to the 3 match ban for the tackle itself, served in 2001).

Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle Utd): 5 matches and £100,000 for racially insulting an opponent, Romain Saiss of Wolves, 2016. Saiss apparently urged the referee to send off Shelvey’s teammate Vurnon Anita during their match in September, following which three Wolves players variously reported Shelvey saying: “You Arab c***”, “Arab prick”, “Morrocan prick” and “smelly Arab c***”. Shelvey, who denied the charge, was also ordered to go on an education course.

Billy Bonds (West Ham): 5 weeks and £100 (which was a lot in those days!) for spitting at a Hull opponent in retaliation for a foul, 1970. It was actually only 2 weeks for the spitting, but it also activated a 3-match suspended sentence imposed six months previously as it was the third time Bonds had been booked since.

Alan Ball (Everton): 5 weeks and £100 for three bookings collected in 3 separate matches in 1969-70 season; he missed four league games and an England international, and was reported to have lost around £1,000 in wages and bonuses.


Victor Wanyama (Southampton): 5 matches for a third red card of the season, a straight red for a tackle on West Ham’s Dimitri Payet, 2016. His manager Ronald Koeman said he was not being fined by his club for this third offence, though he was for the second sending off (for two yellow cards against Norwich).

Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth): 5 matches for stamping on the head of Man Utd’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 2017. Mings denied the glancing blow was deliberate and was backed by his club. The FA banned him anyway, and Ibrahimovic had already exacted his own revenge shortly after the incident by elbowing Mings. The Swede received the standard three-match ban for this.

Bertram “Bert” Smith (Spurs): a month for ‘filthy language’ to the referee, 1922. This was in a match at White Hart Lane where Arsenal seemed determined to win by injuring Spurs players. Arsenal went 2-0 up in the second half, after reducing Spurs to ten men – and nine for a while – through injuries, but a disputed goal was awarded to Spurs near the end of the match. Arsenal goalkeeper Stephen Dunn reportedly then shook the referee and behaved ‘like a man demented’. Punches were thrown, including by Arsenal’s Alex Graham on Smith. Incredibly Smith was the only player to receive a ban, while Graham was merely censured for retaliating instead of reporting the incident to the referee! It seems ‘filthy language’ was considered worse than physical assault on either the officials or the other team.

George Best (Man Utd): one month for kicking the ball out of the referee’s hands after a League Cup semi-final defeat to Man City in December, 1969. Best missed 5 games and was so fired up on his return that he broke Man Utd’s scoring record with six in one match, in the FA Cup against Northampton Town. Utd were undefeated in his absence, and he said he didn’t want people saying it was his fault if they lost on his return.

Ernest Hart (Leeds Utd): 28 days for insulting the referee during the West Riding Cup Final between Leeds and Huddersfield Town, 1933. The ban was to cover the last week of the 1932-33 season, and the first 3 weeks of the following season, but it also meant that he was dropped from the England squad for two tour matches to Switzerland and Italy in May, after the season had ended, so effectively it was a 135 day ban rather than 28 days.

Ashley Grimes (Man Utd): 4 matches and a fine of £750 for allegedly pushing referee Dennis Hedges, 1982. Grimes was apparently trying to attract the ref’s attention to a penalty claim in a match against West Ham when Mr Hedges turned round at the wrong moment and was struck in the head. Grimes was sent off, which gave a 2-match ban, and the FA added two more after a hearing. Many players have had 4-match bans, but I include this one for comparison with present-day fines, as the £750 penalty was a new record, the previous record being the £500 imposed on both Neil McNab (Bolton at the time, I think) and Vince Hillaire (Crystal Palace) two years earlier, both also for alleged ref-bashing. As it turned out Grimes missed six matches before managing to force his way back into the United team. (I thank @unitedstats99 for this info and also pointing me to info on Enoch West.)

Andros Townsend (Spurs): 4 months and £18,000 fine for gambling offences – betting on football, but not matches he was involved in – June 2013. However, 3 months was suspended to July 2016 and the other month was backdated to the end of the season, May 23rd, meaning he actually missed no games! He was forced to withdraw from the England U21 squad for the European Championships and have treatment for his gambling problem.

I’m sure there are some long suspensions from the earlier days of football that I haven’t got listed here. If you know of any, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter at: @AngryOfN5