The independent regulatory commission which decided Harry Toffolo’s punishment for 375 breaches of the FA’s betting rules says there were “clear and compelling” reasons to give the Nottingham Forest defender a suspended ban and allow him to continue playing football.
Toffolo, 28, was given a five-month ban from football by the independent commission, suspended until the 2024-25 season. He was also fined £20,956.
Toffolo, who was charged by the FA in July, admitted that he breached FA Rule E1 (b) — relating to misconduct — on 375 occasions between January 22, 2014 and March 18, 2017.
Toffolo’s case has drawn comparisons to that of Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who was given an eight-month ban from football by an independent commission in May for 232 betting breaches.
According to the independent commission’s report on Toffolo’s punishment, the FA’s guidelines state there should be a sporting sanction — i.e. a ban from football — in such a case but “substantial mitigation” led to a reduced punishment.
The report notes that Toffolo’s lawyer, Nick De Marco KC, argued against any sporting sanctions but if there were to be some, they should be suspended. The report says “the FA did not seek to persuade us otherwise”.
The independent commission says it would have imposed a 10-month ban on Toffolo but for the mitigating circumstances. Those, it says, allowed it to be reduced to five, and then suspended for a period of time.
‘Some players bet on football – they know it’s breaking the rules but still do it’
Toffolo — who was at Norwich City from 2014 to 2018 but spent time on loan at Swindon Town, Rotherham United, Peterborough United and Scunthorpe United during that period — placed 375 bets on football matches.
The report says Toffolo staked a total of £1,323.92, making his average bet £3.53. Toffolo’s total return was £956.22, with an overall loss of £367.70. He also placed a 25p bet on himself to score during the League One play-off final in 2015, which his Swindon side lost 4-0 to Peterborough.
Of the bets, 40 were placed on Toffolo’s own club, with 15 against his side. The report states that Toffolo was not in the matchday squad for the majority of those, but on one occasion he was a used substitute.
The report states Toffolo was struggling with his mental health during the period in which the charges took place, leading to him gambling with increased frequency.
“On the basis of the evidence before us, we accept that the bets placed by (Toffolo) during the relevant periods which form the subject matter of this charge were the result, at least in large part, of the significant mental health challenges that HT endured those periods,” the report said.
The report does add that “the breaches committed by (Toffolo) were significant; certainly given the number of bets and the nature of certain of the bets, they cannot be described as trivial despite the low stakes involved” but also says his “genuine remorse” and belief that betting would help him fit in at some clubs where gambling appeared to be prevalent were other mitigating factors.
It also notes that Toffolo claims he was unaware that he was not allowed to bet on football matches, even those involving his own team. The report accepts that Toffolo “received no formal education, instruction or training on ethical conduct or the FA Betting Rules” and adds he has not placed any bets since learning he was prohibited from betting.
It continues: “While that may seem unlikely in this day and age, we accept that that was in fact the case for (Toffolo). The events in question took place several years ago.”
The report also states that Toffolo did not try and deny the charges or that the bets were made by him, with the Forest player “frank and open about his betting”. Toffolo is also assisting the FA “in connection with another matter which has arisen as a result of information that emerged during his interview”.
The former England youth international has also offered to help with the FA’s education of youth players to prevent them from gambling and address mental health challenges, according to the independent commission.
(Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images)