Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo betting investigation: Premier League duo released from Italy squad

Newcastle United’s Sandro Tonali and Aston Villa’s Nicolo Zaniolo have been released from international duty by Italy after being questioned as part of an investigation by prosecutors. 

Luciano Spalletti’s side face Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta on Saturday and England next Tuesday.

Italian news agency ANSA reported Tonali and Zaniolo had been interviewed as part of a betting probe being carried out by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Newcastle and Aston Villa, who made their respective signings of Tonali and Zaniolo during the most recent transfer window, are yet to comment on the matter.

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What did the Italian FA say about Tonali and Zaniolo?

In a statement, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said: “The Federation announces that this afternoon the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office has conducted investigations into players, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo, who are currently training with the national team at the Coverciano Federal Training Centre.

“Regardless of the nature of the events, considering that the two players are not in the necessary condition to face the matches scheduled for the next few days, the Federation has decided, also for their protection, to allow them to return to their respective clubs.”

Although the FIGC did not specify the nature of the investigation, it followed La Stampa’s report on Wednesday that Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli had been placed under investigation in Turin as part of an investigation into unlicensed betting platforms. ANSA said prosecutors spoke to Tonali and Zaniolo in relation to the same probe.

What are Italy’s gambling laws?

Gambling is legal in Italy as long as it takes place on platforms recognised by the Customs and Monopolies agency. 

Offences related to gambling via unlicensed means can be punished by a three-month prison sentence or a fine from €51,000 ($53,686) to €516,000.

Under the FIGC’s sporting justice code, players, coaches and officials are barred from betting on any events organised by the FICG, FIFA or UEFA. Anyone found to contravene Article 24 of the code can be banned for three years and faces a minimum fine of €25,000.

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Premier League players banned for gambling offences

Reports of the case at this stage do not speculate on the details of Tonali and Zaniolo’s discussions with prosecutors, nor is there any direct suggestion of wrongdoing since their moves to the Premier League — Tonali in a permanent switch from AC Milan to Newcastle and Zaniolo on loan to Aston Villa from Galatasaray.

Nevertheless, they are the latest players in England’s top flight to be mentioned in connection with betting probes. The most high-profile recent case related to Brentford and England striker Ivan Toney, who is in the midst of an eight-month Football Association ban for betting offences.

The 27-year-old forward was also given a fine of £50,000 ($62,000) and warned over his future conduct following a personal hearing, although it’s since emerged that his ban was reduced as Toney was diagnosed with a gambling addiction.

The FA confirmed that Toney had been charged with 262 breaches of Rule E8, which concerns betting regulations for those who work in professional football. Toney admitted to 232 of the charges and the other 30 were withdrawn. He will be allowed to play again from January 16, 2024.

Newcastle and England right-back Kieran Trippier was banned for 10 weeks and fined £70,000 ($95,000) after he was found guilty of encouraging a friend to place a bet on him signing for Atletico Madrid, the club he joined from Tottenham Hotspur in 2019.

Trippier, who denied the allegation, had an appeal rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and did not play in La Liga between January 12 and March 7, 2021.

Lucas Paqueta was placed under investigation by the FA in August in relation to suspicious betting patterns in games when the West Ham United midfielder was booked. The Brazil international was the subject of transfer interest from Manchester City at the time and the move collapsed once the gambling revelations emerged.

Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo Italy careers

Tonali, 23, and Zaniolo, 24, were each handed their international debuts by Robert Mancini in 2019 but were not part of the Azzurri’s triumphant Euro 2020 campaign. Zaniolo almost certainly would have been but for a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Each player has 15 full international caps, with Zaniolo having two goals to his name — both scored in a 9-1 win over Armenia in November 2019.

Newcastle return to Premier League action with a home match against Crystal Palace on October 21, with Aston Villa hosting West Ham a day later.

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