Inside Information: Lessons from the Trippier and Sturridge Cases

February 11, 2021

This blog post is an abridged summary of a more in-depth article, available on Law in Sport here:

The offences under the FA Rules

The recent cases of The FA v. Kieran Trippier and The FA v. Daniel Sturridge have highlighted what is likely to become a growing issue for players and other Participants at the top end of the game. By the very nature of their careers, players and their representatives are likely to be privy to information which is not available to the public. Whilst players clearly have the right to discuss developments in their careers with friends and family and to seek advice from those they trust, if third parties then use that inside information for betting the player risks being in breach of The FA’s rules. There is therefore a fine line between a legitimate conversation within a player’s inner circle and an impermissible disclosure of insider information or an instruction to bet.

In Sturridge, the FA’s Appeal Board found that texts from the player to his brother, including “Put the grand on Sevilla I’ll give it back if you lose” and “find it and put it on” amounted to an impermissible instruction to bet and a breach of the FA Rules. In Trippier, by contrast, the Regulatory Commission found that the player texting “lump on if you want mate” to a friend did not fall within the definition of instructing, permitting, causing or enabling a third party to bet.

In order to avoid misconduct charges of this nature, therefore, it is clear that players should avoid indicating any desire that a particular bet should be placed on or related to football.

The offence of sharing inside information which a player knew or should have known would be used for betting is a more nuanced issue. In particular, if a player is entitled to share information with his or her inner circle in order to seek advice, when will that legitimate conversation become misconduct? In both Trippier and Sturridge, a disclosure of inside information took place in the context of conversations during which the players’ associates indicated that they were likely to bet (for example by discussing movements in the relevant betting odds). In those circumstances, the players should have known that betting was likely, and it was no defence to argue that their disclosures of inside information were “throwaway remarks” or “banter”.

These cases highlight that it is perfectly legitimate for players and other Participants to seek advice from their inner circle and to disclose inside information when doing so. But if the conversation turns in any way to the relevant odds, or betting in any form, they should be wary. In those circumstances, players and their representatives would be well-advised to make it absolutely clear that any information disclosed as part of that conversation should not be used for betting.

The international effect of the sanction in Trippier

A unique feature of the Trippier case is that the player was transferred to Atlético Madrid prior to his FA misconduct hearing. He was therefore beyond The FA’s jurisdiction, which is limited to players and clubs in England. Accordingly, The FA invited FIFA to give the domestic sanction worldwide effect pursuant to Article 66 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code 2018, which applies where the infringement in question is “serious”. FIFA granted the FA’s request on 23 December 2020.

However, Atlético are in the midst of a push for the La Liga title and sought to appeal FIFA’s decision in an effort to ensure a key player remained available (interestingly, the club did so without notice to either The FA or the player himself). As part of this appeal process, Atlético successfully argued that the enforcement of Mr Trippier’s worldwide ban should be suspended, allowing him to play in a La Liga game against Sevilla despite his ban from The FA remaining in place.

Understandably, this led to concerns that the player was effectively going unpunished for his breach of the FA Rules, and The FA sought to revise his domestic suspension such that it would come into effect at a later date. However, the FA Regulatory Commission found that it did not have jurisdiction to revisit its earlier decision (and that it would have denied The FA’s request in any event).

Ultimately, on 18 January 2021 FIFA’s Appeal Committee upheld the decision to give Mr Trippier’s ban worldwide effect and his suspension was reinstated. Although the Appeals Committee made its decision within a short time-frame and quickly reinstated the worldwide suspension, the case has highlighted the limits of The FA’s jurisdiction. If a player leaves that jurisdiction prior to any FA sanction being imposed, and FIFA does not agree that the matter is sufficiently “serious” to give the sanction worldwide effect, the player in question could conceivably escape any effective sanction altogether. Further, even if FIFA does agree to give the domestic sanction worldwide effect, Atlético’s appeal has shown that it is possible to disrupt this process.