Update: Sandro Tonali’s 10-Month Gambling Ban No Longer In Limbo
2:01 PM EDT on October 27, 2023
Update (2:22 p.m. ET): Five minutes after posting this article, FIFA announced that it has indeed ratified Sandro Tonali's gambling ban. Tonali will no longer be eligible to play for Newcastle this weekend. Below is the post as it was written before FIFA's announcement.
After an investigation sparked by Italian police, Newcastle United and Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali has been banned from soccer for 10 months by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) for gambling violations. Tonali must also undergo therapy for rehabilitation, make appearances at various organizations, and pay a €20,000 fine. However, despite the ban coming down on Thursday, Tonali's actual status for Newcastle is anyone's guess at the moment, thanks to the slow-moving nature of European soccer bureaucracy.
Despite the FIGC finding that Tonali violated their policy on gambling—which states that professional soccer players in Italy can't bet on games organized by the federation, UEFA, or FIFA—the ban is currently only active in Italy. For the ban to apply globally, it has to be approved by UEFA and FIFA, and at the moment that approval is still pending.
This is why Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said on Friday that there is a "high chance" that Tonali will be on the bench for the Magpies this weekend against Wolverhampton. Howe added that he thinks "there are a few things that have to happen before the ban is imposed, so let's see." Since news broke about Tonali's gambling and the impending ban, he has continued playing for the club, which signed him from AC Milan this past summer for €70 million. Most recently, he was a second-half substitute in Newcastle's mid-week Champions League 1-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund.
News of Tonali's gambling issues emerged when fellow Italian international Nicolò Fagioli was handed a seven-month ban for similar violations; Fagioli, who plays for Juventus, reportedly told investigators that Tonali was the one to tell him about Icebet, one of the illegal gambling apps involved in the investigations: "I happened to see [Tonali] playing and asked him what he was doing. He told me I could play because there was no trace of the bets." (Nicolò Zaniolo, who now plays for Aston Villa, is also under investigation, though he has denied that he violated any rules.)
Though Tonali could have faced up to a three-year ban for these violations, he appears to have received a lower penalty because of his reported "full cooperation" with investigators. His agent, Beppe Riso, said Tonali acknowledges that he has an "illness" in the form of gambling addiction, and that he will undergo the treatment in his time away from the game. Though he can still train with Newcastle during the ban, he will not be eligible for any club or country matches until late August next year.
Well, in theory. Until UEFA and FIFA confirm the ban, Tonali will be free to play for his club, which explains why he will be available on Saturday. It should only be a matter of time before the ban is official, though; soccer's governing bodies tend to side with the individual federations on matters like this. Newcastle has reportedly started kicking the tires on a potential fill-in for Tonali, with January loan deals for Manchester City's Kalvin Phillips and former Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves supposedly under discussion. Those reports seem to indicate that the club fully expects UEFA and FIFA to ratify the FIGC's ruling in the near future.