The Newcastle United player was handed an 18-month disqualification according to a statement issued by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC). The ban is initially only imposed in Italy, but will almost certainly be extended globally by Fifa, possibly before this weekend. The ban will be reduced to 10 months should Tonali, who claims to be a gambling addict, complete an eight-month rehabilitation plan.
Under an agreement reached with the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, Tonali has also been handed a €20,000 ($21,000/£17,500) fine.
Tonali, who joined Newcastle from AC Milan for £55m in July, was found to have breached article 24 of the CGS, the FIGC’s Code of Sports Justice. This article forbids professional footballers from placing bets on events organised by FIGC, UEFA and Fifa.
Tonali is one of three Italian internationals who have been under investigation by the FIGC over gambling violations. He was named alongside Juventus’ Nicolò Fagioli and Aston Villa’s Nicolo Zaniolo.
FIGC president Gabriele Gravina explained why Tonali, 23, was not handed a three-year ban as proscribed under the organisation’s rules.
“The rules call for a certain number of years of suspension, but the plea bargain and extenuating circumstances have been taken into consideration and the players’ collaboration went above and beyond, therefore we must continue to respect the rules we have established for ourselves,” he said.
Tonali admitted his guilt
FIGC said Tonali’s “therapeutic plan” will last a minimum of eight months and require him to attend at least 16 public meetings in Italy. These will be held at amateur sports associations, federal territorial centres and centres focused on recovery from gambling addiction.
According to reports, Tonali’s agent claimed his client has a gambling addiction and cooperated fully with the investigation. Tonali admitted to placing bets on matches, including some in which he was involved for Milan.
UK campaign group The Big Step said Tonali’s reported addiction is further evidence that football should distance itself from gambling. It reiterated calls for an end to all gambling advertising and sponsorship in English football, although both have been banned in Italy since 2019.
“Footballers are human and if they are suffering from addiction they deserve empathy and support, not lengthy bans,” a spokesperson for The Big Step said.
“Every football game is wall-to-wall with gambling ads, not just across shirts but around stadiums and related media content.
“Sending someone addicted to gambling into this environment is like sending an alcoholic to work in a pub. If you force young footballers to endorse addictive products, then don’t be surprised if they use them.
“Ending all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football, including all parts of the shirt and in every stadium, will help to prevent harm to those on and off the pitch.”
Tonali’s ban comes a week after Juventus midfielder Fagioli was disqualified for seven months for betting on matches. His suspension was for 12 months, but five of those were suspended and he was fined €12,500. He also agreed to a gambling harm treatment programme.