MARTIN SAMUEL: Atletico right to challenge Trippier's trumped-up ban

MARTIN SAMUEL: Atletico Madrid are right to challenge Kieran Trippier’s trumped-up ban for telling a friend to ‘lump on if you want’… this is just the FA acting as bookies’ muscle – and the fines and suspensions are NOT fair

  • The FA would like you to believe that Kieran Trippier told his friends to lump on 
  • But it was nothing of the sort  – Trippier gave the tamest of endorsements
  • Atletico’s case is simple, they brought the player and had nothing to do with it
  • How did none of Edinson Cavani’s previous teams not explain cultural differences to the Uruguayan striker?
  • It’s not right that reckless behaviour jeopardises schedule for others amid Covid

Lump on. That is what the Football Association would like you to believe Kieran Trippier told his friends shortly before his move to Atletico Madrid. It implies a ring, a sting and big, big rewards, hence his 10-week ban. It was nothing of the sort.

Transcripts reveal a more earthbound reality. The circle trying to win a few quid, the player trying to be a pal. One of Trippier’s mates asks if he should ‘lump on’ — the first time the phrase is used — and gets the reply: ‘Can do mate.’ Later, pressed, Trippier adopts the same turn of phrase. ‘Lump on if you want mate,’ he advises. It is the tamest of endorsements.

Yet, as the friends swiftly discover, lumping on really isn’t an option. Bookmakers don’t want anyone lumping on a transfer bet because the only person who would enter such an unpredictable market with cash and confidence is in the know. Nobody is betting big money on a hunch.

Kieran Trippier was found guilty of breaching betting rules surrounding his move to Spain

So it’s a win-win. If the move collapses the bookmakers keep the cash, and if it delivers they have the safety net of football’s governing body to do their dirty work, if betting patterns indicate prior knowledge. So one of Trippier’s friends had his stake ‘massively restricted’, and another got £300 on, but only at odds of 1-6, giving bookmakers a liability of £50 and a red flashing light.

Some of the other bets were laughable: £8.75 at 1-2, liability £4.37; £20 at 1-2, liability £10; £20 at 1-3, liability £6.66; £25 at 8-13, liability £15.38. The biggest bets were undermined by short odds: £100 at 5-6, liability £83.33; £120 at 5-6, liability £100. Another bet of £300 at 4-11 gave the winner £109.09, while £80.34 was wagered at 3-10, a return of £24.10.

The significant numbers here are not being made off book-makers. ‘Levy just wants £500,000 more,’ Trippier told his acolytes at one stage. According to FA evidence, the fee was finally agreed with Tottenham for £25m, which rather puts that £4.37 into perspective, or even the big hit, £109.09. As does the £482m Denise Coates was paid as chief executive of Bet365 across two years between 2017 and 2019.

And, yes, it’s the principle that counts, not the profit. Trippier should not have been sharing privileged information with people he must have reasonably assumed were using it for gambling purposes.

Yet, why, exactly? This isn’t a match. He isn’t affecting the outcome and therefore the integrity of a competition. Bookmakers have chosen to make a market on his life, and in doing so have placed him in jeopardy.

Who makes significant career decisions without discussing it with family or friends, without taking counsel, or offering progress reports? Trippier did not ask for this book to be opened, and receives no revenue from it. Maybe that is what should change.

In one WhatsApp exchange, Trippier told a friend to ‘lump on if you want mate’ 

In another exchange, Trippier told a friend the deal to move to Atletico Madrid was nearly done

The only way these bans and fines would be fair is if book-makers had to seek permission from the individuals involved, who would receive a cut of the revenue as part of their image rights. Then, if a player was found to be manipulating the market, or offering the inside track, it would be fraud and he could be penalised accordingly.

This is just the FA acting as bookies’ muscle. If they didn’t pursue cases against players such as Trippier and Daniel Sturridge, the gambling houses would soon tire of losing and the problem would go away. It is the FA that facilitates this by acting as enforcer — as if the grubby charade is any of their business.

This is now being tested. Atletico Madrid have challenged the ban which is suspended, pending appeal. The club will go to FIFA and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport if unsuccessful.

Their case is simple. They bought a player. They had nothing to do with a betting scandal that took place when he was still under contract to Spurs, or a punishment handed down from a different country. Had Trippier served it as administered, he would have missed 13 Atletico matches including the home Champions League fixture with Chelsea. As he would not even be allowed inside the training ground before March 1 — or to attend a game — his place in the Madrid derby scheduled for March 7 would have been in jeopardy, too.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid brought Trippier from Tottenham in a £25million deal

And this is a huge season for Atletico. They top the table with a two-point lead and games in hand on Spain’s big two. They could win LaLiga for only the second time since 1996 — and Trippier is their first-choice right back.

Certainly, it did not escape Atletico’s attention that his ban did not impinge on any international fixtures, leaving the FA and English football unscathed. Atletico protested and FIFA listened. It could mean, if the punishment is delayed but upheld, that Trippier misses the European Championship. That leaked this week as if the FA were trying to put the frighteners on.

Yet, so what? It’s their trumped-up ban. Given the friend-of-the-right-back’s-cousin’s-best-mate’s-cleaning-lady source of transfer gossip is such a familiar trope, how preposterous is it that the FA make passing information a crime? Equally, why are they prioritising protecting the sanctity of an artificial betting market created to separate mugs from their money?

Unless some mug knows somebody, of course. Then, they’ll refuse to pay, turn the source over to the beaks, and the FA will prosecute as if they’ve cracked the crime of the century. Strange, isn’t it, that they’re so fascinated by £4.37 — but rarely with the part where the real money gets made?


The most incredible aspect of Edinson Cavani’s ban for using racist language is that in close on 13 years based in leagues across Italy, France and England, nobody has ever thought to explain cultural differences to the Uruguayan striker.

There was shock that Manchester United did not provide media training to a man with eight million Instagram followers, yet what of Palermo, Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain? Cavani spent six years in Italy, seven in France, and nobody ever told him the ‘negrito’ thing wasn’t cool? Did they think it was cool too maybe? Did they think it didn’t matter? 

Whatever criticism can be aimed at United, they were probably as surprised as anybody to discover that a player whose first move to Europe was inspired by an outstanding display at the South American Youth Championship in 2007, had never been informed that what passes as a friendly greeting in South America has the power to offend here.

And where were CONMEBOL, the South American federation, in this? They attacked the Football Association decision to ban Cavani, claiming the punishment had damaged his reputation. Yet given that 68 of 115 players who represented South American countries at the last World Cup were based in Europe — with another two in North America, where language is equally charged — where is CONMEBOL’s guidance to their exiled talent?

Edinson Cavani was handed a three-match ban for using the term ‘negrito’ to his friend

Cavani’s international team-mates also rallied around, ludicrously accusing the FA of discrimination but are they also pleading ignorance? Uruguay’s 2018 World Cup squad was largely plucked from Europe — 14 of 23 were at UEFA clubs — and based in centres from Istanbul in the east to Lisbon in the west. And nobody knew? Nobody could have shared an experience, had a quiet word?

Cavani’s ban seems harsh for what appears a genuine mistake. Education would have been a wiser option than the FA’s standard nut-cracking sledgehammer. Yet it is disingenuous to heap blame on Manchester United for a 33-year-old living in ignorance of the continent he has inhabited since the age of 19. There have been many teachable moments missed along the way — or wantonly ignored.


With no wins and two points in 17 games since the start of the season, Sheffield United are the worst team in England’s top division since Bolton Wanderers in 1902-03. 

And yet record signing Lys Mousset, fit to start just two games this season and with one goal in 13 months, drives a £300,000 Lamborghini. Well, he did until this week, when he wrecked it in a collision that saw two men arrested for drink-driving. The nosedive at Sheffield United is frequently touted as a mystery. You reckon?


Sebastien Haller seems to be heading to Ajax. The deal apparently hinges on West Ham finding a replacement. See below. Just as likely to score, probably more mobile, and at least he’s smiling.

This would be a worthy West Ham replacement for Sebastian Haller – just as likely to score


Increasingly, it is plain that football is going to have to make some tough decisions around responsibility and Covid-19. The Football Association started to tiptoe down that route, with the suggestion any club incapable of fulfilling their FA Cup tie this weekend will simply forfeit their place in the competition.

Yet what was a black-and-white issue is now mired in grey. Derby intend to play a youth team against Chorley with so many of the first-team squad in isolation, and Shrewsbury’s match with Southampton has already been lost — possibly. The League One side will discover next week whether the match will be rescheduled or declared as a bye for Southampton. A similar call may have to be made on Aston Villa’s tie with Liverpool.

Yet, so far, none of these outbreaks can be attributed to negligence or selfishness. This is a fast-spreading virus and there will be instances of misfortune. The same cannot be said of Arsenal’s fixture with Aston Villa in the Women’s Super League.

After the match with Everton on December 20, three Arsenal players flew to Dubai and one tested positive for Covid on their return. At the time of departure, London had been placed in Tier 4 and overseas travel was not permitted. Arsenal have been told it was a business trip and seem happy with that. But the league should not be because Arsenal’s match with Villa is now off as several of the squad are isolating.

Three Arsenal Women’s stars flew to Dubai, with one testing positive for Covid on their return

‘So we are asking for a postponement because we broke the rules?’ queried club stalwart Ian Wright. ‘Why should Villa be punished?’ It’s a fair point.

There have been calls for individual players to be banned or even sacked for breaching Covid regulations but what is certainly fair is that if irresponsibility can be proven and causes postponement the club responsible forfeits the match. 

This might focus a few minds when it comes to illicit holidays and party planning. Manchester City’s WSL game with West Ham is also off after four players tested positive following a Christmas break in the United Arab Emirates, but that was taken when Manchester was still in a tier that permitted travel. Unwise, certainly, but not a violation.

Yet as football is increasingly affected, judgments must be made. It is not right that reckless behaviour jeopardises the schedule for others. The WSL should apply independent scrutiny to that business trip and, whatever the final verdict, at least then a precedent is set. For the men’s game, too.


It always seemed an arrogant assumption that Phil Neville would hang around as a lame duck coach of England’s women, just for the chance to be part of the Olympic Games in 2021.

The Football Association were very proud to have recruited Holland’s Sarina Wiegman as Neville’s successor but the lead time to her arrival in August is ridiculous.

Sure enough, Neville has a better offer from Inter Miami, the MLS franchise owned by his friend David Beckham, and with no guarantee the Olympics will even go ahead, Team GB are high and dry. The best domestic candidates have been overlooked and who would dilute their presence at a club for a job in the balance? Neville out, Wiegman in should have taken place at the time, or not at all. This is just a mess.

Phil Neville has hung around as a lame duck waiting for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year


Given the current climate and the fact national recovery rides on the success of a mass vaccination programme, the idea that Olympians should receive priority as Tokyo approaches is obscene. Sport has to take its place in line. As much as we all love modern pentathlon, this is real.


At Old Trafford on Wednesday night, the person responsible for the BBC live text feed admitted struggling to tell Kevin De Bruyne and Oleksandr Zinchenko apart. Pale, blond, wearing identical colours and often to be found in wide attacking positions, it’s an easy mistake to make.

Yet five years ago this week, Charlie Nicholas made the same observation about Fernando and Fernandinho — that some players from the same club look similar and can be easily confused — and had to apologise after accusations of racism. Enjoy the world we have created.

The BBC live text feed struggled to tell Kevin De Bruyne and Oleksandr Zinchenko apart 

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