Rangers to cut losses as £2m Joey Barton gamble backfires
Rangers may have found their lever to spring the trapdoor under troubled Joey Barton in the fresh turmoil engulfing the controversial midfielder.
With Barton now under investigation for allegedly breaking football betting rules, any ban imposed by the Scottish FA could provide Rangers with grounds to dismiss the player without incurring the financial burden of paying out his two-year contract, worth more than £2million.
Barton’s bust-up with boss Mark Warburton and team-mate Andy Halliday, following the 5-1 defeat to Celtic, that led to his current three-week club ban, was not deemed sufficient to warrant his sacking for misconduct due to the risk of hefty legal and compensation costs.
In addition to the betting probe, the player’s position at Ibrox now looks untenable with further revelations yesterday likely to damage his relationship with his team-mates and the club’s supporters beyond repair.
A bad day for Barton began with news that the Scottish FA and the Gambling Commission are looking into claims that he placed a bet on Celtic to suffer a heavy defeat to Barcelona last Tuesday night. Brendan Rodgers’ side lost 7-0.
The SFA has a strict no-betting policy on football games and if found guilty, Barton could face a ban and have his contract cancelled.
A later statement from Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell to the effect that Barton had expressed a preference for joining Rangers’ greatest rivals will not endear the 34-year-old player to Gers fans, already angered by the backroom fallout.
And his team-mates are also likely to take exception to comments on the standard of Scottish football in an interview given to London-based papers to publicise Barton’s upcoming book. Even by Barton’s long history of conflict, it was a damaging day.
A potential SFA charge will leave Barton even more vulnerable after his club suspension cast major doubt on whether he would play for Rangers again.
Barton was told to stay away for a further three weeks after talks with Mark Warburton and board members on Monday failed to resolve the situation which had seen the 34-year-old informally banished from the club for the previous five days following a training-ground row.
The former England cap has been told not to speak to the media after further angering Warburton by giving a radio interview last Friday when he claimed the manager's decision to send him home had been "strange".
But he provided further insight into his turbulent spell in Glasgow in newspaper interviews given last Wednesday - before news of the controversy broke - but published in yesterday's London editions.
The former Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder admitted feeling regret over his move to Scotland during a series of interviews with English-based journalists to promote his upcoming autobiography, No Nonsense, in which he claims he was approached by a third party to consider a move to Celtic just before he joined Rangers.
"I was never going to change my mind and let down Rangers," Barton told The Guardian.
However, on his general decision to move to Ibrox, Barton also said: "Reflecting on it, would I have made the same decision? Probably not."
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell responded to Barton's claims that the Hoops were interested in him in a statement, saying: "I think Joey's been had by a bit of a matchmaker here.
"I remember it well, we had just announced Brendan (Rodgers) as our new manager and I was with our company secretary in London at the time. An agent called me saying that Joey was going to sign for Rangers but he would really prefer to come to Celtic and were we interested in signing him, but it wasn't something we wanted to pursue."