Newcastle player Tonali banned from soccer for 10 months in betting probe

October 26, 2023 4:41 PM
  • Associated Press
October 26, 2023 4:41 PM
  • Associated Press

ROME (AP) — Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali was banned for 10 months by the Italian soccer federation on Thursday for betting on teams he played for — ruling him out of the rest of the Premier League season as well as competing for Italy at next year’s European Championship.

Story continues below

The 23-year-old Tonali, who became the second player suspended in the widening case, agreed to a plea bargain with the federation that included therapy for a gambling addiction.

Tonali’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, recently acknowledged that his client has a gambling problem and that Tonali told prosecutors he bet on AC Milan and Brescia when he played for those clubs.

The federation acted following an investigation by Turin prosecutors into soccer players using illegal websites to bet on games.

Tonali’s ban means he will not be able to return in time for Euro 2024, which runs from June 14-July 14. Defending champion Italy has not yet qualified.

Tonali’s cooperation with authorities allowed the minimum ban of three years for players betting on soccer matches to be greatly reduced.

Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina said Tonali was suspended for 18 months but that eight of those months were commutable by attending treatment for gambling addiction and making at least 16 public appearances at centers for young soccer players and associations for recovering addicts.

“We can’t just think about punishing the boys and not helping them recover,” Gravina said. “I think it’s worth a lot more, rather than a month ban, eight months of giving talks about what they went through, in an honest way and with the right behavior.”

Tonali was also fined 20,000 euros ($21,059).

Last week, Juventus midfielder Nicolò Fagioli was banned for seven months after agreeing to a plea bargain with the federation that also stipulates he undergoes therapy for a gambling addiction.

Unlike Fagioli, Tonali admitted he bet on his team’s games when he played for Milan, but always for them to win so there was no suggestion of match-fixing.

Gravina stressed that “these were bets and there was no alteration of the result.”

Tonali joined Newcastle from Milan in the offseason and the Italy international signed a five-year contract with the English club.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said of Tonali last week that the club is “committed to him long-term” despite the gambling case.

Tonali came on as a 65th-minute substitute in Wednesday’s Champions League loss to Borussia Dortmund for what was almost certainly his last appearance of the season, although the ban still has to be extended internationally by European soccer body UEFA.

Tonali and Aston Villa midfielder Nicolò Zaniolo were sent back to their clubs this month after police showed up at Italy’s national team training camp to officially notify them of involvement in the Turin probe.

Zaniolo has said he did not bet on games.

Tonali and Fagioli are not the first top-level soccer players to be banned for violating gambling rules.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney was suspended for eight months by the English Football Association in May after admitting to 232 charges of breaching betting rules.

Former Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton was banned for 18 months in 2017 after admitting to placing 1,260 soccer-related bets over a period of more than 10 years. That was later reduced by almost five months on appeal.