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Ivan Toney and Sandro Tonali bans a ‘disgrace’ says Paul Merson

Former Arsenal winger Paul Merson has recently ignited a fiery discussion within the footballing world by shedding light on the pervasive issue of gambling addiction within the sport.

Merson, who has openly admitted to being a “compulsive gambler” during his playing days, has boldly declared that football is currently “ravaged” by this hidden addiction, and the recent bans handed to players Ivan Toney and Sandro Tonali have only underscored the severity of the problem.

Toney, a player for Brentford, received an eight-month ban for a staggering 232 breaches of betting rules, while Tonali, previously at Newcastle, faced a 10-month suspension that is set to conclude in August.

Merson has condemned these bans as a “disgrace,” emphasizing that measures alone are insufficient in addressing what he perceives as a widespread issue in the sport.

“People have no respect for the gambling addiction,” Merson passionately expressed.

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

Merson’s poignant remarks underscore a critical need for a more nuanced approach to tackling gambling addiction within football.

While disciplinary action may serve as a deterrent, Merson argues that it fails to address the root causes of addiction or provide meaningful support to those struggling.

The former England international draws upon his own experiences to shed light on the complexities of gambling addiction, describing it as a “hidden addiction” that is often difficult to detect.

He emphasizes that while the effects of excessive drinking may be more readily apparent, gambling addiction can remain concealed until it spirals out of control.

“It’s easy to hide,” Merson explains. “If a player comes in who’s been out drinking ’til four o’clock in the morning, you know. But if they drop 200 grand at a casino or betting, you never know until it’s too late.”

Merson’s insights challenge the prevailing perceptions within football clubs, where gambling may be viewed as less harmful than other vices such as alcohol.

Paul Merson says the gambling bans given to Ivan Toney and Sandro Tonali are a 'disgrace'.
Paul Merson says the gambling bans given to Ivan Toney and Sandro Tonali are a “disgrace”. (Image: Wiki)

He asserts that the impact of gambling addiction on a player’s performance can be profound, potentially eclipsing the effects of excessive drinking.

“It will affect their game more than drink,” Merson contends, drawing attention to the detrimental consequences of gambling addiction on both the individual and their professional career.

Moreover, Merson’s candid reflections on his own struggles with addiction serve as a stark reminder of the human toll of this pervasive issue.

Despite enjoying a successful playing career, Merson acknowledges that his addictions ultimately hindered his aspirations of becoming a football manager.

“My only regret in football is I failed miserably at Walsall,” Merson reflects. “At the time my addictions were raging with drink and gambling.”