UK Charity Renews Demand For Football Ad Ban After Tonali Betting Suspension

October 27, 2023
Another high-profile football player has been banned for breaching betting rules, prompting one charity to renew its call for an end to gambling advertising and sponsorship in the sport.

Another high-profile football player has been banned for breaching betting rules, prompting one charity to renew its call for an end to gambling advertising and sponsorship in the sport.

On Thursday (October 26), the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) confirmed that Newcastle and Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali, who moved to the Premier League for a fee of £55m in the summer from A.C Milan, has been banned from playing football for ten months after making a plea bargain.

Had Tonali not been so cooperative during the investigation he reportedly could have been banned for up to three years. 

The Big Step, a campaign to end all gambling advertising and sponsorship in football and part of the charity Gambling With Lives, 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.”

The charity also called for more empathy for players suffering from addiction and for “support, not lengthy bans”.

Tonali's breaches occurred during his time playing in Italy.

Advertising of all gambling services, except national lotteries, has been prohibited in Italy since July 14, 2018. 

Tonali will reportedly have to undergo gambling rehab for eight months as part of his deal with the FIGC.

Gary O'Neil, the manager of Premier League team Wolves, similarly called for "good education" of players around gambling ahead of Tonali’s ban being made public.

"If I go back to when I was playing, it was everywhere. It was part of the culture, it was on the team bus, people checking scores at half-time," O'Neil said, adding that “it can seem fun and nothing, but all of a sudden you're missing football for eight months and missing loads of money".

News of the ban comes just weeks after Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli was banned for seven months by the FIGC for betting breaches.

There have also been several other high-profile Premier League players embroiled in betting rule breaches in recent months.

On May 17, 2023, Premier League team Brentford's star player Ivan Toney was handed a suspension from all football and football-related activity for breaches of the Football Association’s (FA) betting rules.

The FA announced the eight-month suspension with immediate effect, as well as a £50,000 fine and a warning for Toney.

Despite Toney’s ban for breaching the FA’s betting rules, the club revealed on July 4 that its new kit for the next two seasons would feature South Africa-based Hollywoodbets as the shirt-front sponsor.

More recently, in August 2023, West Ham midfielder Lucas Paquetá came under investigation by Brazilian and UK authorities after a suspected intentional yellow card in a Premier League match last season. 

Suspicions first arose around Paquetá when Betway, West Ham’s front-of-shirt sponsor, reported suspicious activity after a flurry of bets on a yellow card he received in a Premier League match against Aston Villa on March 12.

Premier League clubs have agreed to end gambling sponsorship on the front of their matchday shirts at the end of the 2025-26 season. However, gambling adverts will still be allowed in stadiums and on players' sleeves.

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