The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has banned Sandro Tonali, the midfielder from Newcastle and Italy, for 10 months due to a breach of betting rules.
This suspension will prevent him from playing until August and could affect his participation in Euro 2024 if Italy secures a spot. Newcastle signed Tonali in July for a transfer fee of £55 million from AC Milan, and he also faces a €20,000 fine.
The FIGC confirmed that Tonali violated the regulation that prohibits players from placing bets on football events organized by FIGC, UEFA, and FIFA. Additionally, he has agreed to an 18-month disqualification, with eight months dedicated to a “therapeutic plan” designed to assist in his recovery from gambling addiction. This plan involves making at least 16 public appearances at amateur sports associations and “federal territorial centers” in Italy.
FIGC President Gabriele Gravina, speaking to Sky Sports Italia, emphasized that the plea bargain and mitigating circumstances were considered, and Tonali’s cooperation exceeded expectations, reinforcing the importance of adhering to established rules.
In a related incident, Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli received a seven-month ban and a €12,500 fine for similar betting breaches. Fagioli has also committed to a therapy plan lasting at least six months to address his gambling issues.
Tonali and fellow midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, currently on loan at Aston Villa from Galatasaray, left Italy’s training camp in October after Italian prosecutors informed them of their involvement in an investigation.
Before the ban was announced, Eddie Howe, the manager of Newcastle, expressed his support for Tonali, acknowledging the difficulties he has faced. Despite these challenges, Tonali has made 12 appearances for the club and is the second-most expensive signing in the team’s history.
Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer emphasized the support from the Newcastle public and the club, although he recognized the difficulties Tonali might face while living in England during his playing ban.
Premier League clubs have agreed to remove gambling sponsorship from the front of their matchday shirts by the end of the 2025–26 season. However, gambling brands will still be allowed in other areas, such as shirt sleeves and LED advertising.
The bans on Tonali, Fagioli, and other players have sparked discussions about the need for better education regarding gambling-related issues among football players. Managers like Gary O’Neil of Wolves and Roy Hodgson of Crystal Palace stress the importance of individual responsibility and the potential for more extensive education on the topic.
A campaign called The Big Step, which aims to end all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, has expressed the need for empathy and support for players dealing with addiction rather than lengthy bans, citing the pervasive presence of gambling advertising in football.