NEWCASTLE UNITED are wrapping their arms around their star midfielder, Sandro Tonali, as he faces a suspension for 10 months for illegal betting activity.

His agent says Tonali faces the “fight of his life against gambling addiction” and that he has a serious medical problem.

This is undoubtedly true: gambling addiction is an insidious problem that creeps up on its victim, effectively paralysing them, stealing their money and devastating their lives.

Yet three of Newcastle’s seven main sponsors are gambling companies and Tonali is running out into a stadium where he is unable to escape gambling messages – it must be like forcing an alcoholic to go into a pub and sniff every one of the drinks he cannot have.

Football is awash with gambling money: Sunderland’s 15-year-old starlet Chris Rigg made his debut earlier this year wearing a shirt advertising a gambling company he was too young to use; one of Middlesbrough’s main sponsors, 32Red, has been recently fined £4m for “social responsibility failures” which included failing problem gamblers – so while Newcastle are wrapping their arms around their problem gambler, Boro’s sponsor is exploiting them.

It's not just football. Gambling is everywhere, and, although a tiny minority of gamblers have serious problems, it is causing society big problems. Only this week, the Government announced a new £100m levy on gambling firms – a tiny percentage of the huge sums they extract from gamblers – to go on research, prevention and treatment. The NHS is to open seven new specialist gambling clinics across the country this year to support the work of the seven already in operation.

And yet, when you engage in any way with football, you are blasted with messages telling you how great gambling is.

While Newcastle rightly wrap their arms around their troubled star, football as a whole should be looking into its soul and working out how it can end its own addiction to this money.The Northern Echo: Sandro Tonali could face a suspension (Richard Sellers/PA)