Newcastle's Dan Ashworth gives update on potential Tonali replacement
Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth admits the Saudi-backed club could be blocked from signing a replacement for Sandro Tonali from the Middle Eastern country, amid concerns from rivals over related-party transfers
- Sandro Tonali has been given a 10-month ban for illegal betting on football
- Newcastle could be prevented from signing a replacement from Saudi Arabia
- Mauricio Pochettino vs Alan Shearer – who is right? Listen to It’s All Kicking Off
Dan Ashworth says Newcastle could be blocked from signing a replacement for Sandro Tonali from Saudi Arabia, as the club launch an internal investigation into why they did not know about the midfielder’s gambling addiction leading to a 10-month ban.
The sporting director said he could not comment on the prospect of legal action against AC Milan – who sold their captain for £52million in July – but all aspects of the case are being reviewed.
He also could not rule out the possibility of the Football Association looking into whether Tonali had broken betting rules since joining Newcastle.
Ashworth confirmed the 23-year-old has breached an element of his contract after admitting to illegal gambling as part of an investigation by Italian authorities.
It is thought Newcastle do have scope to reduce his £140,000-a-week wages while he cannot play for the club, although Ashworth was keen to stress how well the Italy international has conducted himself in recent weeks. He is now able to train with the team.
Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali has been given a 10-month ban after admitting to illegal gambling
Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth (left) is looking at signing a replacement, but admits the club may be prevented from bringing in a player from Saudi Arabia
Newcastle are backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and their rivals may raise concerns over potential related-party transfers
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But during a 45-minute meeting with reporters at the club’s training ground on Friday, it was Ashworth’s revelation about the prospect of new Premier League legislation on related-party transfers that was especially telling.
Newcastle, 80 per cent owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, have been linked with a January loan move for the likes of Ruben Neves since Tonali’s ban. The former Wolves midfielder plays for PIF-owned Al Hilal, and Ashworth was asked if there is anything to stop Newcastle taking players from the Saudi Pro League.
‘Currently, no…’ he said, followed by a long pause.
So Premier League rivals will try to prevent it?
‘The current rules and regulations say there is nothing to stop it,’ he added. ‘Currently. But there is a potential that the various different organisations will look at things across related-parties, and what you can do to acquire players at a fair market value, which have already been in place for quite a while.’
Tonali was brought in as the club’s marquee summer signing but, unbeknown to Newcastle, he had already committed the offences that would result in his suspension, including gambling on his own team to win matches.
This has led to questions over what Milan – and the player and his representatives – knew at the point of the deal.
Newcastle had been linked with a loan move for Ruben Neves, but that may be blocked
We understand all legal avenues are now being explored, but Ashworth said: ‘It’s really difficult for me to get into what other clubs do or don’t know. All we can do is look at our own internal investigation and internal process. It’s a really difficult question for me to answer, I just don’t know.’
Reflecting on the saga and confirming the internal probe, Ashworth said: ‘We first became aware of it when was there a potential allegation (against Tonali) on social media.
‘The Italian federation went into Coverciano (Italy national-team centre, on October 12) to speak to Sandro. Within the next 48 hours everything went quickly and there was a potential he could get charged.
‘Our first thought was to protect our player, he is part of our family, and to give him the help and support he needed. We wanted to understand exactly what had happened and work transparently with the authorities. Sandro wanted to do that from the off as well.
‘It was a bit of a whirlwind really. We got to where we were on Friday (October 27) where the ban had been signed off and agreed with the Italian federation, FIFA and our own Football Association.’
He added: ‘For me, from the minute it happened, you look at yourself. What could we have done better? What could I have done better? Could we have known? Should we have known? You look at your processes. I’ve been doing this for 16 years and nothing like this has happened before.
‘We pride ourselves on due diligence and getting the right characters. We spend an immense amount of time looking at the character as well as the athlete. It’s really tricky about what you can and can’t know about people in this world of GDPR and what you can and can’t check.
‘Now, from a recruitment perspective and some of the things we look on from background checking, from a legal perspective, what do we do contractually, there is an ongoing review process. But first of all, I look at myself. We haven’t come up with anything yet. Speaking to other sporting and technical directors, it’s almost like, “How could you have known?”.’
But Tonali has breached his contract?
‘You could look at it like that,’ said Ashworth. ‘Within the contract there is always an amount of flexibility. It depends how they react when they break a rule etc. As a club, we go back to how well Sandro has reacted and acted since it came to the fore.’
Ashworth revealed Newcastle’s primary focus was to protect Tonali after finding out about the investigation
Ashworth has admitted he has asked himself whether he could have done more before the club went through with signing Tonali in the summer
The danger for Newcastle and Tonali is that the FA could now investigate whether he has broken their rules on gambling by betting since his move to the Premier League.
Was Ashworth aware of that possibility?
‘All I can say is that we have fully cooperated with all of the associations and organisations concerned and the FA are, of course, fully aware of what’s going on,’ he said. ‘They are the ones who had to sanction the ban so we’re fully cooperating with everybody.
‘All I can deal with is the present and the facts. I can’t look into the future and, as I’ve said, we’ve cooperated fully with all of the organisations.’
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