independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Players 'using loans to fund bets'

Sporting Chance helped Paul Gascoigne with his addiction

Footballers are resorting to payday loans to fund their gambling habits, according to charity Sporting Chance.

Players are so desperate to bet they are taking out short-term loans before turning to the charity for help, chief executive Colin Bland told BBC Radio Five Live.

The charity, which helps sportsmen and women deal with addiction, has dealt with one footballer who has lost an estimated £7million in three years of gambling.

"It's not uncommon for us to have a footballer who has turned up that's in a circle of payday loans and gambling," said Bland.

"One of the (footballers) I was talking to sort of said 'actually one of the problems is I can afford to place these bets'.

"We've worked with players who have lost up to £7million in three years in gambling. 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. All I'm thinking about is my next bet or my last bet. It's affecting my life, it's affecting my performance, it's affecting my marriage. It's affecting what sort of father I can be'."

Bland added: "We've had sportsmen who have got caught in the scenario of taking out payday loans to place those bets. We've had several of those over the last couple of years. The vicious circle continues."

Sporting Chance works over a whole range of sports but is best known for helping former football players, such as former England international Paul Gascoigne, deal with addiction.

Stoke winger Matthew Etherington admitted he would have turned to payday lenders when he was gambling but because they were not an option he instead went to loan sharks.

Etherington, who has reportedly lost £1.5million in gambling on greyhounds, horse racing and poker, told Five Live: "I don't think the payday loans were about when I was gambling otherwise I would probably be one of (the players using payday loans) myself."

Etherington revealed he had started gambling as a young player at Tottenham when he would bet £20 a time on greyhound races but his addiction escalated when he moved to West Ham.

"That's when it became a problem. I started going to the bookies during the day," he added.

"It just snowballed to where I was frequently spending my month's wages and then lending money off loan sharks and towards the end it got very, very bad.

"It never got to the point where I was threatened physically or anything like that but I couldn't always pay it back because I was gambling it away. There were a few heated conversations."

Etherington finally got help when he moved to Stoke and his family gave him an ultimatum in September 2009.

But he claims a general ignorance of what he calls an illness does not help, particularly among people who criticise footballers who become gambling addicts because of the large sums of money they earn.

"They just think I'm stupid which I think is quite naive. There is such ignorance about addiction," he added"

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