‘No respect’ - Arsenal legend doubles down on Sandro Tonali’s lengthy Newcastle United ban

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Former Arsenal winger Paul Merson supported Sandro Tonali immediately after he received a 10-month ban for breaching betting regulations

Paul Merson believes gambling addiction is “ravaging football” and bans like Sandro Tonali’s are counterproductive.

Newcastle United were stunned just months after stumping up £55million to sign the midfielder last summer. The Italian Football Federation slapped Tonali with a 10-month ban for breaching betting regulations dating to his time at AC Milan.

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That verdict pierced a dagger through Newcastle’s plans for the campaign and, coupled with a long-term injury list, has been cited as a reason for their downturn in form. Toon supporters have continued to shower the 23-year-old will love as he eyes a return early into next season.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Arsenal legend Merson, who suffered from gambling, alcohol and substance abuse issues throughout his life, slammed the authorities for coming down hard on footballers. He said: “People have no respect for the gambling addiction. We’ve seen that with the bans of Sandro Tonali at Newcastle and Ivan Toney at Brentford.

“To give people 10-month bans for an addiction that is ravaging football, with sponsorships all over the shirts (is wrong). They needed help and I don’t think ‘help’ is giving them 10-month bans.

“We underestimate this addiction. We need to show it some respect and not, ‘Oh, show a bit of willpower’. I would say to the people who make these rules up and ban people, ‘Next time you get diarrhoea, try and stop that with willpower’.

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“It’s big in football, it’s a hidden addiction because it’s a hard one for managers to get hold of. It’s easy to hide. If a player comes in who’s been out drinking until 4am, you know. But if they drop £200,000 at a casino or betting, you never know until it’s too late.”

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