Soccer & Gambling
The world of elite level football is one that’s dominated by testosterone and extravagance. Likewise, footballers have vast amounts of money, a passion for sport, and a lot of spare time on their hands. When coupled with the fact that gambling adverts are present at every turn, it should come as little surprise to learn that many footballers fall into the traps of excessive and addictive gambling behaviours.
Here are 10 players that have experienced problematic relations with gambling.
Despite playing for Manchester United and Newcastle United, former player Keith Gillespie was declared bankrupt in 2010, citing accumulated gambling losses of £7m as the main reason. It also played a central feature in his autobiography ‘How Not To Be A Football Millionaire’.
Once a prodigy at Reading, Scott Davies lost £200,000 to gambling in his 20s and has openly admitted gambling played a role in his plight into non-league football. The Harlow Town player now plays an active role in helping others battle their addictions.
Matthew Etherington’s gambling addiction became common knowledge even while he was still playing. While his employers tried to help him out of the £1.5m debt with extra wages, this only provided the winger with more gambling money. As a recovering addict, he fights for changes to the industry.
Premier League legend Paul Scholes was recently charged for placing 140 bets on football matches. While they came after his retirement, the former midfield maestro still works in football, meaning he is governed by the same rules that the FA uses in a bid to battle gambling among players.
Joey Barton is one of the more high-profile cases as the then-Burnley midfielder was given a year-long ban from playing due to his betting activities. While it’s far from being the only problem faced during his career, it’s the one that essentially resulted in premature retirement.
Anyone thinking gambling addiction is for idiots only need look to Clarke Carlisle to dispel the myth. Commonly known as the smartest footballer in Britain, Carlisle had a casino addiction as it was seen to be an escape from other battles he was facing. Sadly, it only made matters worse.
An addict for over 20 years, Paul Merson appeared on TV in 2019 to seek help after falling back into his old ways. The former Arsenal star admitted that betting on random events such as Lithuanian basketball is pointless, yet he feels obliged to do it.
Then at Sunderland, Phil Bardsley was pictured at the end of the 2012/13 season sprawled out in a casino covered in £50 notes. Already known for his excessive gambling & passion for online casinos & slots, the defender then had to face the wrath of manager Paolo Di Canio.
Gambling problems aren’t limited to English footballers. Italy’s goalkeeping legend was investigated for match fixing incidents in 2006 and 2012 while his love of poker has even seen him become a patron for PokerStars.com. Gambling and fixing matches are rife in Italy.
At the height of his problems, former Cardiff player Michael Chopra was spending £20,000 on betting while teammates have reflected how it would distract him from football. The striker eventually lost £1.5m and had to play on through injury to cover his debts.