ROME – Newcastle United midfielder Sandro Tonali has been banned from soccer for 10 months over breaches of rules on betting on matches in Italy, the head of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said on Thursday.
Italy midfielder Tonali, who joined Newcastle from AC Milan this year, must also attend treatment sessions for problem gamblers and give a series of talks about his experience over a further eight-month period as part of a deal with the FIGC.
The plea-bargain agreement, which is expected to apply to international soccer, was confirmed by FIGC President Gabriele Gravina. It will rule Tonali out for the remainder of the club season and next summer’s Euro 2024 tournament should Italy qualify.
Tonali, 23, is the highest profile player caught up in a betting scandal that is shaking Italian soccer. His agent has said he is suffering from a gambling addiction.
The midfielder joined Newcastle from AC Milan in July for a reported fee of 70 million euros ($74 million), a record sum for an Italian player.
There was no immediate comment from Newcastle. Tonali made an appearance as a substitute during their Champions League 1-0 home loss to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night.
Legal and sporting authorities have been investigating the use of illegal betting platforms by soccer players in Italy.
Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli has accepted a seven-month ban as part of a settlement with the FIGC after admitting to gambling problems.
The FIGC’s Gravina defended the plea-bargain system used to handle these cases rapidly and reduce the more severe penalties that could have been applied.
“The rules set out a certain number of years of sanctions, plea-bargaining is allowed as are extenuating circumstances,” he told reporters.
“The lads have been incredibly cooperative so we continue to follow the rules as they are set out,” he added.
Aston Villa’s Italy midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo is also assisting authorities in their investigation into alleged illegal betting activity, the Premier League club said last week.
Zaniolo and Tonali left Italy’s squad before their Euro 2024 qualifiers this month after the players were told of their involvement in an investigation by Turin prosecutors. REUTERS