Sportsmen ‘most at risk’ from curse of gambling

Research showed 6.1 per cent of sportsmen would be classified as 'problem gamblers'. Picture: Bill Henry

Research showed 6.1 per cent of sportsmen would be classified as 'problem gamblers'. Picture: Bill Henry

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Professional footballers and cricketers are three times more likely to have a gambling problem than other young men – and the problem is worse if they are on lower incomes, according to new research.

The findings of the research study into gambling involving professional sportsmen was announced at the Professional Players’ Federation (PPF) conference in Edgbaston.

The research showed 6.1 per cent of sportsmen would be classified as “problem gamblers” compared to 1.9 per cent of young males in the general population.

It also showed that only a quarter of sportsmen had received responsible gambling education” – but 89 per cent of these found the education helpful.

PPF chairman Brendon Batson described the findings as “worrying”.

He said: “There is an urgent need to break down the stigma attached to problem gambling in sport. Sportsmen are a clear ‘at risk’ group and the whole of professional sport has a duty of care to these young men.

“We all need to work together to expand and improve the good practice that exists on education and treatment for problem gambling.”

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The research was based on confidential questionnaires from 170 professional footballers and 176 professional cricketers.

In 2013, the Sporting Chance rehabilitation clinic said footballers were taking out pay-day loans to fund gambling addictions and that 70 per cent of its referrals related to gambling.

The former Tottenham and Stoke winger Matthew Etherington was helped by Sporting Chance after losing £1.5 million gambling on greyhounds, horse racing and poker.

Keith Gillespie, the former Northern Ireland, Newcastle and Manchester United winger, has also admitted to a gambling problem including losing £47,000 in one afternoon.

In Scotland, former Hearts and Motherwell player Kevin Twaddle admitted to serious gambling problems and released an released an autobiography entitled Life On The Line – How To Lose A Million And So Much More.

Kevin Kyle, the former Scotland international, is another who revealed a problem with gambling during his playing days. “It’s everywhere in football, from the juniors up to the top level,” Kyle said. “Being involved in the game, you have a little more knowledge than your average punter. Some people do it for just a bit of fun and others do it because they have a problem, they can’t help it.”

Former New Zealand and Gloucestershire batsman Craig Spearman revealed he was a compulsive gambler at the height of his career and has been working to help other cricketers overcome similar problems.

Heather Wardle, research director at NatCen Social Research, said yesterday: “This research shows there is a significantly higher rate of gambling problems among professional sports people than the wider population.

“It is interesting to question why this might be. Is it due to a betting culture? Is it something about athletes’ personalities or perhaps a combination of these two?”

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