Longest Bans In Football

football banUndoubtedly, it is one of the most popular sports in the world for many good reasons; however, numerous incidents give football a black mark, which is, unfortunately, part of the game.

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba’s recent four-year ban from the sport after testing positive for testosterone metabolites casts doubt on the rest of his career. It got us thinking about some of the longest bans that have been issued to players in the sport.

With Pogba set to be 34 by the time he is allowed to play again, it remains to be seen whether he will continue and, if so, which club(s) will be interested, if any.

However, keep reading to learn about similar instances of players who have received lengthy bans from the sport over the years and the fallout.

Biggest Bans

eric cantona kung fu kick that led to ban

Joss Labadie – 10 Matches

While Luis Suarez is arguably the highest profile football player to earn himself a reputation for biting, it seems former West Bromwich Albion trainee, Labadie became somewhat notorious for this offence while playing in the English Football League.

In 2014, he was handed a £2,000 fine and a 10 match ban while playing for Torquay United after biting Chesterfield United’s Ollie Banks. However, one year later, while at Dagenham & Redbridge, Labadie received a six month ban for biting the finger of Stevenage defender Ronnie Henry.

Ivan Toney – 8 Months

Brentford striker Toney received an eight month ban in May 2023 after an investigation saw him being in breach of 232 FA betting rules.

Despite being banned, there were rumours that Toney might be subject of interest from multiple clubs in the January transfer window, though he chose to stay with Brentford after the club stood by him.

The sharpshooter scored immediately on his return in January 2024, repaying the faith Brentford had showed him.

Rio Ferdinand – 8 Months

It was somewhat of a shock when star centre-back Ferdinand was given an eight-month ban in 2003 and a £50,000 fine after refusing to submit to a random drug test.

While this was a particularly dark period of his career, the then 25-year-old went on to experience considerable success with Manchester United and establish himself as one of the best central defenders in the world.

His ban subsequently saw him miss the European Championship in 2004.

Mark Bonsnich – 9 Months

The former Chelsea custodian was handed a nine-month ban in 2002 when he was found guilty of two offences: improper conduct and testing positive for a banned substance, understood to be cocaine.

Bosnich argued that his drink was spiked, which resulted in penalties being weighted down, as conveyed by the then PFA Chairman Gordon Taylor.

Bosnich was not fined, though he was ordered to pay the £10,000 legal costs.

Eric Cantona – 9 Months

Possibly one of the most infamous incidents in English football that resulted in a ban, the Frenchman, while playing for Manchester United, was the subject of racist abuse from Crystal Palace fans and, as a result, responded with a karate kick to one of the offending fan’s chest.

The player’s refusal to apologise for his actions did little to endear himself to the disiciplinary committee and he was given a nine month ban by FIFA and the FA. This also included a two-week prison sentence, though this was downgraded to 120 hours of community service.

Sandro Tonali – 10 Months

It looked for all intents and purposes that Newcastle United had pulled off a major coup with the £55 million signing of Italian midfield enforcer, Tonali from AC Milan. However, this was to be shortlived. However, the club should have done their due dilligence. J

ust a few games into the season with his new employer’s the Italian was handed 10 month ban for breaking Italy’s gambling regulations, which means he would miss Euro 2024.

Abel Xavier – 1 Year

The former Middlesbrough full back received a 12 month ban in 2005 for taking performance enhancing drugs that included the anabolic steriod, methandrostenalone (dianabol).

Initially, the FA imposed an 18 month ban, before reducing it by six months.

Billy Cook – 1 Year

In 1915, Oldham Athletic player, Cook was handed a 12 month ban after refusing to leave the field when the referee sent him off for persistent fouling against Middlesbrough.

Eventually the game had to be suspended with 30 minutes remaining, much to the annoyance of the FA for having to reschedule the fixture.

Diego Maradonna – 15 Months

Arguably one of the best football players of all time, the Argentine was banned twice during his career, on both occasions, for 15 months.

In 1991, this was for the use of cocaine, with it soon emerging that the player had quite a serious drug addiction, despite his obvious talent. Meanwhile, in 1994, his World Cup ended early when anti-doping commissioners found ephedrine in his blood.

Joey Barton – 18 Months

A player who was never far from the spotlight, more for bad reasons than good, there certainly wasn’t a dull moment when Barton was playing.

His short temper led to numerous violent incidents, though this was not the cause of his 18 month ban in 2017 following an investigation by the FA.

It was subsequently found that between March 2006 and May 2016, the player had placed 1,260 bets on football events and was found to be in breach of FA Rule E8.

Bradley Wood – 6 Years

Ex-Lincoln City right back, Bradley Wood was handed a staggering six year ban in April 2018, after it was found that he had been booked deliberately during the club’s FA Cup wins over both Ipswich Town and Burnley during the 2016/17 season.

After an estimated £10,000 in winnings had come to light, after two close friends of Wood and friends of theirs wagered on him to be booked, the FA launched an investigation. The player denied these charges but admitted to 23 other betting offences. He was banned for five years for the deliberate bookings in addition to another year for the gambling misdemeanours.

Enoch West – 30 Years

Still, to this day the longest ban of any football player who wasn’t banned indefinitely, West and three of his fellow Manchester United teammates, plus four Liverpool players were found guilty of match-fixing in 1915.

The seven others all had their bans lifted when they enlisted into the army for World War I, though West refused. It meant that he would have been 59 when the ban expired.

What Is Being Done To Monitor Unruly Conduct?

football substance abuse drugs bansFor all anyone knows, there could well be many football players (especially at a lower level), who are getting away with behaviour that would invariably result in bans, however, from the cases listed above, it appears that authorities are definitely on the ball when it comes to being able to detect offences.

It appears that the most common examples of misconduct at the moment in relation to betting, though, in Pogba’s case, testing positive for substances can still happen. This can be a grey area as well, because footballers (and athletes) are sometimes unaware that they have taken anything – sometimes claiming that they were given food or drinks by their dietician’s, or, indeed spiked.

Certainly, drug testing will continue to remain in football (in addition to all sports), while authorities are also becoming savvier in regards to betting. In the case of Pogba, the length of the ban suggests that FIFA were keen to make an example of the player and it remains to be seen whether this will be reduced pending an appeal.