Nottingham Forest’s Harry Toffolo speaks on fearing that the betting charges he faced would end his career within football.
He is now turning his life around, using it to “inspire” him in helping others with gambling and mental health problems, something he and Nottingham Forest announced last week.
The FA gave the 28 year old a suspended five-month ban in September 2023 over 375 breaches of betting rules with the independent commission who heard the case finding bets were made when his “mental health was at a very low ebb”.
NEW: Harry Toffolo opens up on the betting scandal that he thought might END his career.
— Dan Salisbury-Jones (@dsj_itv) January 5, 2024
“I felt like I lost everything”, Toffolo said, as per BBC Sport.
“It was 100% the most difficult part of not just my career, but of my life.
“It scares me because I was in the last year of my contract and I thought the dream I worked so hard to get was over.
“I was thinking my career is going to be over because of what happened six to nine years ago, which came back to sting me.”
It was when the Football Association’s independent regulatory commission gave his a fine of £21,000 and a suspended ban that was “the light at the end of the tunnel” after five months of not knowing the severity of his punishment
“When I got that email sent through from the FA [outlining breaches], I dropped on the floor and had a full-on panic attack,” Toffolo said to BBC Radio Nottingham.
“I recognised the user names, but I didn’t recognise those bets. I can’t remember placing them, but they are me. I don’t identify myself with the person on that Excel spreadsheet.
“I was mortified and ashamed of them.
“My kids will never forget the day they saw their daddy cry.”
April 2023 was when he was told of an investigation into breaching betting rules from when he played for Norwich City and took in loan spells at Swindon, Rotherham, Peterborough and Scunthorpe between 2014 and 2017.
Toffolo placed 15 bets against his own team at the time, most of them would be majority of on his accumulators, while he also made two 25p bets on himself to score in the League One playoff final in 2015, only for his Swindon side to lose 4-0 against Preston.
He wasn’t aware until 2018, when playing for Lincoln, that footballers weren’t allowed to bet on football, where he said to commission that prior to joining Lincoln, he felt betting would help him “fit in” with senior players.
He said to BBC East Midlands Today that “it was how football was back then” and that they hadn’t realised there was a betting breach.
Because of the “considerable time” between discovery of his rule breach and being charged, Toffolo was able to show “genuine remorse”, while coming to terms and being able to open up about his betting.
Toffolo is thankful that he was able to tell of his story, from dealing with anxiety, loneliness and depression.
The Nottingham Forest defender feared that betting charges would see the end of his career.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 10, 2024
“I have a lot of respect for the independent panel for listening to my story and taking everything into account,” Toffolo said.
“But I don’t hold any grudges because I put myself in this position.
“It’s a part of my life I boxed away because I hated that person – I hated everything about that person and I didn’t want anything associated with that person.”
His suspended ban came in the same year that Brentford’s Ivan Toney and Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali had been issued with an eight and 10 months ban for a betting rule breach.
2023 also saw Premier League clubs agree to withdraw gambling sponsorships from the front of match shirts by the end of the 2025-26 season with MPs saying the Premier League and other sports governing bodies “should commit to cutting the volume” of gambling adverts in stadiums with it getting out of hand.
Toffolo has now been appointed an ambassador of Tricky to Talk – which is a Forest community trust programme looking to held people with their mental health.
“Some people might get down by it [the disciplinary process], but I feel like I have more energy from it,” Toffolo, who also saw his contract at Forest extended, said.
“I feel strong, but I also feel a sense of responsibility now to try help and hope it never happens again to anybody else.
“It’s now down to me as a person to say ‘what can I do to help, how can I protect my children from putting them in this position?’, I feel inspired by it.
“Every day for five months it was just about getting through them one by one.
“I got through it and my career has never been at such a high than it has been in the past two or three months.
“I feel the most complete I have ever felt in my life at this moment in time, on the basis that I feel I have almost nothing to lose because I thought I had lost everything.
“I feel extremely humbled that I have the opportunity to keep playing.
“I just go out there and I fight for the fans and fight for my family because I’m sitting here now and I’m extremely grateful to even have this opportunity to talk about it.”
Making an impact on and off the pitch.
— Nottingham Forest (@NFFC) January 5, 2024
Nottingham Forest Football Club and Nottingham Forest Community Trust are delighted to announce defender Harry Toffolo as ambassador for the Tricky to Talk programme.
Tricky to Talk is the Trust’s mental health programme which began in 2019 and aims to look at how the Trust can support the mental health of Nottinghamshire residents and Forest fans to promote greater mental wellbeing. Based on peer-support methods, the Trust offers a range of ‘hubs’ each month, both online and face-to-face, including men only hubs and support for the Armed Forces community.
Harry’s role as an ambassador has come on the back of his attendance at a men only session in Hucknall, facilitated in partnership with Bottled Up Blokes where he openly spoke about mental health, and actively listened to participants. Since attending the session Toffolo has advocated to become an ambassador for the Trust’s Tricky to Talk mental health programme.
Speaking about the announcement, Toffolo said, “I’m delighted to be an ambassador for the Tricky to Talk programme and getting involved gives me a sense of responsibility. I’ve got a stature within the community where I can help others, having recently been through what a lot of others have gone through. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from. We’re all equal and mental health is all relative.
“It’s important to me that we can make awareness of mental health stretch as far as we can to make sure people know that there is support there. If you’re a Forest fan or any football fan, I hope that you know that there are people and programmes there for you.”
Tricky to Talk programme lead Claire Henson added, “To have Harry as our ambassador and showing his support for the Tricky to Talk programme is fantastic.
“It’s so important that we continue the discussion around mental health and to add Harry’s voice and lived experience is hugely valuable.”
To find out more about the programme, click here.
Problems with gambling can harm your health and relationships, and leave you in serious debt.
If your gambling is causing problems for you or your loved ones and you’d like to stop, support and treatment is available.
Are you having problems with gambling?
Try this questionnaire:
Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?
Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?
Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?
Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?
Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?
Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a problem with gambling (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?
Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?
Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?
Score 0 for each time you answer “never”
Score 1 for each time you answer “sometimes”
Score 2 for each time you answer “most of the time”
Score 3 for each time you answer “almost always”
If your total score is 8 or higher, your gambling might be causing problems for you or those closest to you.
This is how fans reacted as Nottingham Forest’s Harry Toffolo speaks on fearing betting charges would end his career…
@JakeMeachh: How can you not love Toffolo #NFFC
@SammyImp: Toff is a brilliant player and a great bloke. I’m sure he will go on and do good things for others as he’s that type of guy! All the best Harry, onwards and upwards – you’ll always be welcomed back at Sincil Bank 🥰
@NMBLAKE: Top man Toff 👏🏽👏🏽
@Kel_NFFC: Just wanted to say what a massive blessing you are to our club. So humble and you’ve made such a profound impact on and off the pitch. I’m glad you have told your story & I hope others get the help they need! Well done Toff, becoming such a club legend ❤️🤍
@dnl_crw: Brilliant. You’re a massive asset to our club @Harry_Toffolo
@Deanaf1: Love Toffs ❤️
@KongMyWhopper: Well done Harry, so happy for you to turn it around 👏♥️🌳
@JulianWoodall: He left us 3 years+ ago but there won’t be a single Lincoln City fan who doesn’t still love Toff. An absolute gent, lovely family man, great example to all, and an amazing player. We weren’t aware at the time of some of his demons – so happy to see how he has reacted and grown
@impsasone11: Harry is a very kind hearted chap. He was like this at Lincoln too . Always has time for everyone 👍👏👏👏
@mason_tweet: Good man, all sounds from the heart. 👍❤️
@kempson_luke: keep on doing what you’re doing. I might be an Imps fan, but suffering from mental health quite badly over the years it’s always important to hear from Footballers who struggle or anyone else.
@Rotary_Pilot: Huge respect ❤️. This will definitely help others
@Packman212: Brilliant interview, well done for coming through Harry, it’s fantastic to know that there’s characters like you at the club. #nffc
@porchesterbus: Fair play to you Harry. You have come through it, accepted what you did and deserve to be in a good place .