Nicolò Fagioli and Sandro Tonali are supposed to be the future of the Italian national team—two extremely talented midfielders who can have teams built around them.
Now, these two players are on the verge of career-changing suspensions.

Both players are standing on the verge of lengthy suspensions for betting violations. As documented last year with Ivan Toney, this is far from unique in modern football.

Juventus and Newcastle will have to reckon with the consequences for their players. Even if sports betting is on the lower end of misconduct, it will still be heavily punished. Just as their careers seemed ready to take their next steps, they could be unraveling simultaneously.

Football and sports betting are continuing to grow hand in hand. From jersey sponsors to billboards, it’s hard to watch a game without noticing the impact of sports betting. Constantly blurring lines make it impossible to see the boundaries of the two entities separating.

Fagioli and Tonali will likely miss close to a year’s worth of football, and their careers will be tarnished. It doesn’t absolve them, but the growing obsession with sports gambling has infected the sport in ways that are hard to reckon with.

Over the past week, the scandal revolving around the Italians has spiraled over the continent.

This scandal has so many twists and turns that it seems made for the social media age.

The majority of this scandal revolves around a group chat between certain Italian players. This chat allegedly was used to discuss bets on certain games. No matter the context, this is a violation of sporting ethics.

As of now, the investigation revolves around three players: Fagioli, Tonali, and Zaniolo. The Athletic showcases just how wild the case is turning out to be, with death threats and large sums. 

One of the investigator’s main goals was to determine whether these players bet on games they played in. Fagioli was deemed not to have bet on any of the games that he played in, but Tonali is alleged to have bet on Milan games that he didn’t play in. Even if he didn’t play in those games, Tonali still bet on games that his team played.

Photo: BBC

Tonali’s punishment is going to be fascinating to see play out. Fagioli is starting his seven-month suspension, and he didn’t even bet on his own team. Depending on the severity of Tonali’s bets, the Prem might look to make an example of him and banish him for a longer time.

Given how much debate the Prem had with Toney’s suspension, it’s clear that any punishment for Tonali will take time. No matter if one is a fan of Newcastle or Italian football, fans are going to be sad to see two promising careers take a dark turn.

One of the pandemic’s unintended consequences on sports was the boost it gave to sports betting, especially in the US. Across the world, it’s nearly impossible to watch any sporting event without being bombarded with ads for betting companies.

To supposedly combat the concerns with gambling addiction, the Prem will ban gambling sponsors from the front of jerseys in a few years. No word on any other bans or programs the league will take to combat the issue, though. It’s merely a symbolic gesture meant to “ease” concerns while gambling companies continue to advertise.

There are blurred lines everywhere when it comes to what is and isn’t allowed with these sponsors. Meaning there’s additional blurriness for the players involved.

If players wear jerseys emboldened with betting firms and have their likeness used for ads, why wouldn’t they feel it appropriate to partake? To be clear, it doesn’t make what any of these players did ethical. However, the risk will always be there, even if it is criminalized everywhere.

Photo: Goal

The issue stems from the coziness that leagues have displayed with the firms. It’s uneasy to see how blatant the efforts to merge the two are. 

As with many things, the issue stems from a lack of regulation. Stronger regulation is needed to ensure that lines remain clear. There can’t be any subtleness in terms of how leagues and firms partner. It won’t ensure a decrease in gambling addiction, but it could help ease worries about players and games being affected by the industry.

Two of Italy’s most promising midfielders will now have to sit out at least the majority of the season. The investigation will likely take a while to bear all its fruits, but it’ll give a glimpse into the intersection of sports and the betting industry.
Sports betting’s global surge since the pandemic has blurred so many lines for all involved.

Photo: Chronicle Live

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