Nottingham Forest defender Harry Toffolo hopes his experiences coming through mental health problems and gambling can help others tackle their own issues.
In September 2023, Toffolo was handed a suspended five-month ban after admitting 375 breaches of FA betting rules and was also fined just under £21,000. The investigation related to his time as a young player at Norwich and took in loan spells at Swindon, Rotherham, Peterborough and Scunthorpe between 2014 and 2017.
According to an independent regulatory commission, Toffolo’s deteriorating mental health and belief his football career was over were “very substantial mitigation” for him breaching the FA’s betting rules at that time.
The commission found Toffolo began placing bets on football, as well as other sports, when he was 18 and stopped at 21, with stakes “generally small”. Those included two 25p wagers on himself to score in the 2015 League One play-off final at Wembley for Swindon, who lost 4-0 to Preston.
The 28-year-old told BBC Radio Nottingham of how he felt “mortified and ashamed” when he received an e-mail from the FA outlining the breaches, which saw him drop to the floor in a “full-on panic attack” as he “felt like I lost everything”.
Toffolo faced mental health struggles and loneliness during his spells away from Norwich, later moving to Millwall in 2018 and then Lincoln before joining Huddersfield during January 2020.
Having signed for Forest in July 2022, the defender helped them win promotion in the the Championship play-off final under former boss Steve Cooper and has since gone on to play regular Premier League football.
Toffolo is now an ambassador of Tricky to Talk, which is a club community trust programme aimed at getting people to speak openly about their mental health.
“Some people might get down by it (the FA’s disciplinary process), but I feel like I have more energy from it,” Toffolo said in an interview with BBC East Midlands Today.
“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.”