A number of sports player associations have stated that gambling is one of the biggest mental health challenges in sport.
In a series of interviews with The Independent, player associations such as the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) and the Rugby Players Association (RPA) all expressed concern over the psychological impact of gambling.
The interviews are part of The Independent’s The Sporting Mind investigation into mental health as a sportsperson. The latest part of the investigation takes a look at gambling and it discovered the damage problem gambling causes to current and former sportspeople.
According to The Independent, a former professional footballer gambled away £11,000 after missing a penalty in the FA Cup Qualifier. In a second case, a Premier League footballer who was earning £24,000 a week was made to live on a friend’s sofa due to his gambling addiction.
Speaking to the British newspaper, Michael Bennet, the Head of the PFA, said: “The biggest [mental health] issue at the moment is gambling. The first part for me goes back to it’s easily accessible. On your iPhone, on your iPad, laptop, Mac, whatever. You click. ‘Are you 18?’ Yes, and you’re in.
“The other issue is that players have got so much time on their hands. You’ve got younger players in digs, that are finishing training at 1/2/3 PM. They go home, they have a sleep, wake up 5 PM and go ‘What do I do now?’ So it’s become something to fill that time. And you’ve got players with large amounts of money. It’s not an issue them losing it, because they’re on decent money, but they’re beginning to chase monies they’ve lost which becomes an issue.”
He added: “The other issue is that players are trying to replace the buzz of football. They’re not in football anymore, maybe, they’re trying to chase that buzz of football and gambling seems to give them that buzz. That leads to the slippery slope of getting addicted.”
The issue isn’t just present in football, however. According to The Independent, a Warrington Wolves rugby player developed a severe gambling addiction. After accidentally receiving a sum of £8,000 by the Rugby Football League, the player reportedly denied receiving the money and spent it all in one weekend at a local casino. He later admitted to the incident.
Meanwhile, the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) revealed to The Independent that around 76% of players in the sport believe gambling to be a problem and around 42% of players surveyed gambled on a monthly basis. The study also discovered that 22% of surveyed players gamble weekly and 15% of them gamble on a daily basis.
Ian Thomas, the Director of Development and Welfare at the PCA, told The Independent: “Gambling is a challenge – and it’s a big challenge. It’s a big challenge in all sports, but one thing that has been evident to me is that players gambling issues have probably started when they were 16.”
He added: “They’ve started probably younger than people think. It’s very accessible for a young school lad to get into gambling.”
Caroline Guthrie, the Senior Personal Development Manager at the Rugby Players Association (RPA), said: “It [Gambling] has to be on our radar. The demographic we’re dealing with are young men, they have some spare time on their hands, they’d be earning more than they would at university or the general salary.
“It has to be and is something we’re very aware of because previously if you go out and get drunk or take drugs you get tested for, there’s some visibility to it. Gambling, you can do it very quietly and under the radar.”
The news comes after the UK Gambling Commission announced a 12-week consultation on the use of credit cards with online gambling and after the regulatory body reinstated its commitment to reducing gambling harm. Meanwhile, the NHS announced it had opened its very first gambling clinic for children in London.
If you believe you or someone you may know is struggling with a gambling addiction, you can find help and support on our website here.