Midfielder Sandro Tonali and striker Nicolo Zaniolo are two of the latest Italian football players making headlines for illegal betting activity.
As Premier League betting bans continue, players and clubs are calling for policy adjustments that put treatment and recovery at the forefront of focus.
Tonali, Zaniolo Latest EPL Players To Receive Ban For Gambling
Now under investigation by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and the Italian Prosecutor’s Office, news of this most recent betting scandal broke in early October when Tonali and Zaniolo were sent home from training camp in Italy.
Ongoing analysis suggests Zaniolo will likely receive a small fine rather than a sanction from the league. Tonali, on the other hand, could receive as much as a three-year suspension after allegedly placing bets on AC Milan club matches. With a commitment to recovery and an approved treatment plan, however, his penalty could be reduced to 12 months.
Tonali has given his deposition and will receive his sentencing in the next few days.
It’s unclear whether Milan knew of Tonali’s gambling issues before selling him to Newcastle United for £52 million over the summer. Regardless, Newcastle will face questions about whether the club appropriately assessed Tonali before signing him.
Newcastle Commits To Supporting Tonali Through Recovery
Club manager Eddie Howe said that although Tonali has since been open about his gambling, the news originally came as a shock to Newcastle.
Rather than issuing immediate condemnation, however, the Serie A club decided on a different approach. Howe said Newcastle is responsible for supporting Tonali and is committed to helping him achieve long-term recovery.
“He is a young lad in a very difficult moment and a difficult situation, and when you see things behind this arena, you have a totally different perception of events. I understand the media’s perception of events [but] I see the person, I see the human, I see the pain and the distress, so it’s a very different way of seeing the same situation.”
Players Want To Make Help & Treatment A Priority
For many, these player suspensions are another reminder that the relationship between sports and betting has gotten far too close for comfort.
Newcastle United — much like many other EPL clubs — currently has a partnership with three betting brands. One of those brands, Fun88, is Newcastle’s former shirt sponsor and currently features logo boards throughout the facility.
Clubs are eager to reap the profits of these betting sites, and there’s plenty to be made. A whopping 11,000 betting ads were broadcast during Premier League opening weekend alone.
The problem is, these clubs aren’t so keen on players succumbing to those same gambling temptations — but it’s happening more often.
Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli, for instance, recently began serving his seven-month ban for his illicit betting activity. He could return in time for the team’s season-ending matchup, but he’s sidelined until then and must remain dedicated to his treatment and recovery.
Goalkeeper and teammate Wojciech Szczesny has been outspoken about Fagioli’s gambling problems, urging the league to reconsider the proper consequences for such actions. While he agreed Fagioli must face punishment, Szczesny said the league must “make help and treatment a priority” in the future.
“I think it is time we think carefully about how to treat players who suffer from gambling addiction.”
Fagioli & Other Premier League Players Also Banned For Betting
Paolo Jarre, the physician aiding Fagioli’s recovery, gave a hopeful update on his progress last week, saying:
“Most importantly, he is aware that he is in a bad situation and aware of having put his career in danger with betting. He has a flat tire, but not a puncture.”
Jarre is far less optimistic about gambling addiction as a whole, however, saying that the complications have just begun:
“There will probably be many others; it is a statistical and social fact and does not only revolve around footballers.”
Indeed, Fagioli, Tonali, and Zaniolo are just three players who have received suspensions this year. England striker Ivan Toney received an eight-month suspension in May that will end in mid-January. And Nottingham Forest defender Harry Toffolo was issued a five-month ban last month, though he won’t serve it until the end of the 2024-25 season.
Tonali’s Troubles Shed New Light On Gambling Addiction
EPL betting scandals have traditionally been steeped in stigma. Accused players are typically written off as low-earners looking to supplement their income with a bit of betting. They’re investigated, then handed a lengthy league suspension to repent for their wrongs.
When it’s time to return, they’re welcomed in and reminded not to repeat past mistakes. It’s up to those players to address any gambling problems in the meantime, though.
In Tonali’s case, Newcastle isn’t taking a gamble on his recovery. Rather than chalking his betting up to terrible judgment, the club is calling attention to the larger issue of gambling addiction and ensuring Tonali receives adequate help.
Whether Newcastle is truly concerned about Tonali or has its own well-being in mind is still debatable. Fortunately, the club could help shed some much-needed light on the issue either way.
With enough momentum, the EPL could find the courage to pursue more preventative approaches for protecting players instead of reprimanding them with fines and suspensions.