A betting scandal has created great shockwaves throughout the whole of Italian football with at least three players being investigated for alleged illegal gambling, and several more being named or expected to be named.
Paparazzo Fabrizio Corona, who works for a website called Dillinger News, broke the story in early October and he has slowly named players, mostly from Serie A clubs, who have been allegedly gambling illegally.
Although gambling is not illegal in Italy, anyone involved in football is not allowed to place bets on their own sport. Otherwise, they would be in breach of Article 24 of the Code of Sports Justice.
It states that it prohibits “the subjects of the federal system, managers, members, and members of clubs belonging to the professional sector from making or accepting bets, directly or indirectly, even from persons authorised to receive them, which have as their object results relating to official matches organised within the framework of the FIGC, FIFA, and UEFA.”
So far, one player has been suspended, and two more are still cooperating with investigators.
Nicolo Fagioli – Juventus
The 22-year-old Nicolo Fagioli was the first player to be implicated in this betting scandal when his name was revealed to the public on October 10. Fagioli cooperated with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Turin and FIGC Prosecutor Giuseppe Chine in September and admitted that he was gambling on football matches, but none involving Juventus.
To aid with the investigation, he handed his phone in, which revealed the extent of his gambling and who he was talking to about it. The Bianconeri midfielder revealed that former AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali was the one who introduced him to illegal betting apps while on international duty with the Italy Under-21 Team.
Fagioli agreed on a plea bargain with Chine, earning a seven-month suspension and receiving a fine of €12,000. It is effectively a suspension for 12 months, but he is banned from playing for seven, and for the other five months, he will make public appearances where he will speak to people about avoiding the need to gamble and help recovering gambling addicts. He is also seeking therapy to deal with his own gambling issues.
Sandro Tonali – Newcastle United
The 23-year-old midfielder Sandro Tonali, along with Nicolo Zaniolo from Aston Villa, was allowed to leave the Italy Men’s National Team training camp after he was named by Corona, and placed under investigation.
Tonali, now at Newcastle United, had allegedly been placing bets when he was playing for AC Milan on illegal betting apps and he has been accused of gambling on Rossoneri games during his time at the club. He is expected to face a lengthier ban than Fagioli because he did not hand himself into authorities and because he placed bets on matches involving his own club.
If the Rossoneri were aware of the midfielder’s gambling addiction, Newcastle could consider taking legal action against the Italian giants, but that would require sufficient evidence to prove those claims. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tonali could be facing a suspension of at least 12 months, and he is currently working on a plea bargain with the FIGC Prosecutor.
Nicolo Zaniolo – Aston Villa
Like Tonali, Nicolo Zaniolo left the Italy training camp, and he has been accused of betting on Coppa Italia matches involving AS Roma when he was playing for the Giallorossi.
So far, Zaniolo has vehemently denied any betting on football matches on any illegal betting platforms, but he revealed to investigators that he has played poker and blackjack on gambling websites. His mother, Francesca Costa, plays a part in looking after his financial affairs, and it is likely that she was aware of the Aston Villa forward’s gambling habits.
Although he is cooperating with the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Turin and the FIGC Prosecutor, Zaniolo is still denying any betting on football matches and could face a lengthier ban than Fagioli and Tonali if he is found to be guilty of doing so.
Nicola Zalewski – AS Roma
The 21-year-old Italian-born Poland Men’s National Team wing-back was the fourth player named by Corona, but he has denied partaking in any betting at all.
There is footage of Zalewski speaking to Antonio Esposito, a former Inter youth player whose uncle was named as Corona’s source, and supposedly it might have been in regards to placing a bet. Despite this, the AS Roma player is not under investigation by the Italian authorities at this stage.
However, Zalewski’s lawyers Paolo Rodella and Federico Olivo told ANSA (via Sport Mediaset) in a joint statement that they would sue Corona for defamation.
“Zalewski excludes any, even minimal, involvement. He has given us a mandate to act in every forum against all those who have harmed his name, image and reputation,” they said.
Other players named but not investigated
Corona has named AS Roma winger Stephan El Shaarawy, Lazio defender Nicolo Casale, and Juventus centre-back Federico Gatti, but none of the trio is currently under investigation.
Gatti has admitted to lending money to Fagioli, but he believed that it was to purchase luxury watches. Meanwhile, Casale has advised his lawyer Guido Furgiuele to sue Corona for defamation, as reported by Calciomercato.
“Nicolo Casale has filed a lawsuit against Mr Corona and the editors who have given voice to the slanderous statements of a multiple convicted criminal, already sentenced for extortion against footballers,” read the statement.
“Nicolo has never bet on a sporting event and it is unacceptable to pillory him on the basis of the word of a convicted criminal, ready to do anything to gain media visibility. We will pursue those responsible in every forum until the truth is established.”
According to La Verita (via Milan News), Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella, Empoli winger Emmanuele Gyasi, and Sevilla forward Erik Lamela have also been accused of illegal betting, but it is unknown if they are being investigated yet.
Barella issued a swift denial on his Instagram story, as reported by Inter Xtra on Twitter: “I’ve been silent for too long, despite everything I’ve read online. I have never liked gambling, let alone placing bets (on my job too). All I care about is protecting my family and my daughters from this sh*t. From now on I will take legal action.”