Footballers and gambling addiction

The CEO of Sporting Chance, an organization that helps pro athletes with gambling problems, says you’d be surprised where they get their betting money from.

You’ve probably seen the ads for payday loans on TV or on a billboard – those services that will immediately cash your paycheck as a loan, only asking for an insanely high interest rate in return. You may have even used one in a pinch. But you’ve probably never considered the fact that a professional athlete might take advantage of this service to help place a bet or two on the side.

Yet that’s exactly what some UK footballers are doing to fund their gambling habits, according to Colin Bland, the CEO of Sporting Chance – a charity that helps athletes deal with addiction. According to the organization, about 70 percent of its referrals are related to gambling, and many soccer players end up in a recurring pattern where they have to use payday loans to continue betting.

Vicious Circle

“It’s not uncommon to have a player in a cycle of payday loans and gambling,” Bland told BBC Radio 5. “We are working with a lot more current football players. We have had players who have got caught up in the scenario of taking out payday loans to place bets. We’ve had several of those over the last couple of years, so the vicious circle continues.”

This might sound odd to the average working Joe, who wonders how a professional athlete could squander millions of dollars a year on gambling. But according to Bland, that can actually be part of the problem. At least one athlete has told him that the issue was that there’s always plenty of money coming into his pockets, which means that it’s always available and ready to wager on a moment’s notice.

“We’ve worked with players who have lost up to £7 million ($11.3 million) in three years in gambling,” Bland said. “But the particular young man I’m talking about said ‘it’s the quantity of bets I’m placing. I’m placing 50 bets a day…it’s affecting my life, it’s affecting my performance…it’s affecting what sort of father I can be.’”

Athletes Are Bettors

And while that might sound like a case that’s out of the norm, it’s no secret that athletes around the world love placing big bets. And some former soccer players in the UK have fessed up to losing plenty of money during their careers.

For instance, Stoke City winger Matthew Etherington publicly admitted to having a gambling problem earlier in his career. According to him, he lost about £1.5 million ($2.4 million) betting on poker, horse racing, and dog racing during his career. And while he relied on loan sharks to fulfill his gambling needs, that’s only because that’s what was most available to him.

“I don’t think the payday loans were about when I was gambling, otherwise I would probably be one of [the players that turned to them] myself,” Etherington has said.

“It just snowballed to where I was frequently spending my month’s wages and then lending money off loan sharks,” he said about his gambling addiction.

The gambling habits of high-profile soccer players have become a hot topic in the UK in recent months. Rangers midfielder Ian Black was suspended for 10 matches earlier this year for gambling on at least 160 matches over the last seven years, while Crystal Palace striker Cameron Jerome faced a £50,000 ($80,000) fine for breaking Football Association rules related to betting.