By James Brown
Seven footballers who gambled it all away
From a fan’s perspective, a game of football and a small wager at the betting shop has always gone together like cheese and pickle. It adds a little bit of spice to the game to know that if the result goes your way you will not only be celebrating a win for your team, but you will also be pocketing a few pounds into the bargain.
In today’s internet world that has giving rise to online betting and gambling apps its easier and quicker than ever to make a punt. Now, you can simply log on to your favourite internet sports betting site and place a bet whenever you want to – even if you are at the game and it has already got started.
Pro footballers and gambling
All this is well and good for the average punter, but when it comes to the players themselves, there is a less comfortable relationship with gambling. Of course, professional footballers can’t bet on the matches, but there are numerous other types of wager available, such as slots and table games like roulette and blackjack.
Perhaps it is because they have time on their hands, or it could be down to them having more money that they know what to do with, but the truth is that if you are a professional footballer, you are three times more likely to develop a gambling problem. Here are seven examples of players who found out the hard way that the old advice of “when the fun stops, stop,” is something to be taken seriously.
1) Keith Gillespie
The Northern Ireland international played for a host of Premiership teams in the 1990s and earned millions. Yet his gambling habit, in which he staked more than £100,000 per day, cost him everything and he was declared bankrupt in 2010. He has since written his autobiography, in which he speaks frankly about his addiction.
2) Matthew Etherington
The West Ham winger accumulated gambling debts of £1.5 million while he was a player at West Ham. His father went on to praise Stoke City for the role they later played in helping Etherington combat his addiction and get his career back on track.
3) Kenny Sansom
The former England and Arsenal star was hooked on horse racing, and lost more than £1 million. Things reached a low ebb in the 1980s, when he was found sleeping on a park bench. He has since launched a successful media career.
4) Tom Williams
The Guildford and Peterborough defender kept his sports betting habit secret even from his wife. The truth came home to roost when bailiffs turned up at the door, however. He had gambled away almost £1 million.
5) Paul Merson
Today, he is best known as a football pundit, but Merson has a history as one of the most prolific gamblers in football. Ten years ago, he even gambled away his flat, and was forced to move back in with his parents at the age of 40.
6) Michael Chopra
During his stint at Ipswich Town, Chopra would bet up to £30,000 at a time. Things came to a head when loan sharks threatened his family and came looking for him at the training ground.
7) Jimmy Nielsen
The White Puma had a reputation for placing big bets. But when he accumulated gambling debts of $250,000, he didn’t just wreck his own finances, he also forced a local bookmaker to close down.
Although, we think that footballers have it all, they are still susceptible to the pitfall of life. Thankfully, many of these guys are able to turn around.