Last week the Football Association banned Joey Barton from the game for 18 months on betting charges.
Barton plays for Burnley in the Premier League and accepted the FA charge that accused him of placing 1260 bets on football matches between 2006 and 2013. Professional footballers are banned from making bets on their own sport.
Barton released a statement in which he admitted that he had a gambling problem due to his addictive personality.
In my role as debt advisor to the PFA I frequently encounter both current professionals and ex-professionals who are addicted to gambling. The issue is currently a big topic in the industry and there are several reasons cited why it is such a problem within the football community.
Too much time on the hands of footballers, the ease of gambling now on smartphones and the relative wealth of young players coupled with the blanket advertising from betting companies offering inducements to bet are some of the reasons cited.
I have heard anecdotally that most of the admissions into Sporting Chance are now referrals due to gambling addictions rather than drink and drugs related addictions, for which it was originally established.
Personally, I have spoken to players who have lost several hundreds of thousands of pounds due to their gambling addiction. I spoke to one player who told me that several years ago, in one attempt to deal with his problems he closed down his account with a well known high street and online betting company. The next day he woke up to find £8,000.00 had been credited to his account to get him gambling again. The company obviously understood the psychology of an addict and how easy it would be to start him gambling again by dangling a carrot in front of him. Unsurprisingly, the player again started gambling.
I have always found it somewhat of a sick irony to see Premier League football clubs being sponsored by betting companies and there being no restrictions in the advertising and inducements to get people to bet. It is hardly surprising that the participants of Britain’s favourite sport, who are involved in working in the industry on a day to day basis are tempted to gamble. Surely they must have sympathy if they’re caught up in a gambling addiction rather than being castigated? Personally, I cringe every time I see Ray Winstone on the screens during the half-time of a televised match encouraging punters to ‘cash-out’. It is no surprise that these adverts go out during a match when customers are fired up and full of adrenaline watching the match making gambling even more attractive and, crucially, addictive.
Due to the wrecked lives I have seen due to gambling and the loss of small fortunes and breakdowns in marriages etc it is perhaps no surprise that I think the betting industry should be heavily regulated and in particular most forms of gambling betting advertising should be banned or restricted.
I have seen too many footballers fall into insolvencies and debt for which they have no way out and seen the devastating impact this debt has had on their livelihoods and families. For them there is no way to ‘gamble responsibly’ like Ray Winstone says he does, they are simply in the grip of an horrific addition which was undoubtedly exacerbated by the ease and availability to bet coupled with the encouragement to gamble provided by the betting companies.
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