Italian Serie A football club AS Roma has come out in support of two of its players caught up in the ongoing illegal betting row in the country.
Reports have emerged suggesting Stephan El Shaarawy and Nicola Zalewski have taken part in illegal gambling activities. Both players currently play their club football with AS Roma.
The players have both denied the allegations in separate statements. AS Roma has now also put out its own statement backing the accounts of both El Shaarawy and Zalewski.
“In reference to the rumours spread in recent days regarding the alleged involvement of some of its members in the investigation relating to football betting, AS Roma expresses its full support towards Nicola Zalewski and Stephan El Shaarawy, victims of repeated speculation that have unfairly damaged the image,” AS Roma said.
“The club has total faith in Nicola and Stephan when they say they have nothing to do with this matter.”
El Shaarawy was included in the most recent Italian national team squad for games against Malta and England. Italian-born Zalewski plays for Poland but was not selected for its most recent round of games.
Illegal betting row rumbles on in Italy
Reports of El Shaarawy’s and Zalewski’s involvement is the latest chapter in the ongoing illegal betting saga.
Over the past few weeks, several leading names within Italian football have been linked to partaking in illegal gambling.
Nicolò Fagioli, who plays for Serie A team Juventus, was the first name to emerge. Reports claimed he placed bets with an unlicensed gambling site. Italian Football Federation (FIGC) rules state athletes found betting on the sport can face bans of up to three years.
This week, the Italian Federal Prosecutor’s Office handed Fagioli a seven-month suspension for betting on football. Juventus says it will support the player during his ban.
“Juventus confirms its full support for Nicolò Fagioli in tackling this path, providing the boy with the necessary support in carrying out the indicated therapeutic plan and, as expressly provided for in the agreement, also collaborating with the federation to identify the planned meeting cycles,” Juventus said.
“We are firmly convinced that Nicolò, with the support of the club, his teammates, his family and the professionals who assist him, will face the therapeutic and training process with a great sense of responsibility and, once the disqualification has been served, he will be able to return to competing with due serenity.”
Two more Italian national team players in Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo have also been linked. Tonali plays for Newcastle United in the English Premier League, while Zaniolo plays for Aston Villa, also of the Premier League. Both players were sent home from national team duty after it was confirmed they were under investigation.
Newcastle confirmed Tonali is subject to investigation by the Italian Prosecutor’s Office and FIGC in relation to illegal betting activity. Aston Villa is yet to comment on Zaniolo’s alleged involvement.
EGBA call for revision of Italian advertising ban
Amid the ongoing dispute, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) this week called for a revision of Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. This came after a report found consumers in the country spend €25.00bn on black market gambling websites each year.
Published by La Gazzetta dello Sport, the report suggests €18.50bn is bet with unlicensed sites each year. This represents approximately 75% of all black market bets in Italy.
As such, EGBA is urging Italian authorities to do more to raise awareness among consumers about these risks. This could include revising Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. The ban currently prohibits all forms of gambling adverts in Italy. However, EGBA says lack of awareness of approved operators could be a factor in high black market gambling rates.