Problem gambling was the primary disorder plaguing the football stars, followed by alcohol and drugs. Such cases should raise gambling harm awareness, helping other affected individuals overcome social stigma and seek help. The recently announced UK white paper should also introduce significant reforms but might prove insufficient.
Organizations and Charities Provide Invaluable Help
The UK Players’ Foundation, a union for all current and former footballers in the country, revealed that thirty-five athletes had to undergo residential rehabilitation to deal with severe addictions. Most of these players suffered from gambling harm, with alcohol and drug abuse a close second. Some of them were even high-profile stars who wished to remain anonymous.
Such reveals highlight the growing problem gambling epidemic in the country, especially among its athletes. The most recent controversy regarding Ivan Toney demonstrates that even the very best are not safe from the perils of gambling, which can substantially hurt their professional and private lives. Fortunately, the UK has a robust network of organizations and charities that can provide invaluable assistance.
Players Should Not Hesitate to Seek Assistance
Gambling addiction remains a persistent problem among football players, but the enduring stigma prevents many from seeking timely help. Former goalkeeper Peter Shilton is an outspoken supporter of such initiatives after they helped him overcome his own addiction. His wife, Steffi, commented on the matter in an interview with the Daily Mail, urging other players to seek help should they need it.
“It is important to try to change the narrative around gambling addiction, it is a mental illness, and players should not be embarrassed.”
A recent survey by the charity Gamble Aware revealed 62% of people who know problem gamblers would negatively judge them. Such stigma can be especially harmful to professional athletes, who may fear that news of their addiction would disappoint their fans and impact their careers. However, organizations like the Players’ Foundation can provide much-needed, discreet help.
Upcoming Legislation Should Be a Substantial Boon
While the UK possesses some of the world’s leading gambling harm prevention charities, official regulations are still lacking. The long-awaited white paper is still months from becoming official, and many health specialists and anti-gambling advocates criticized it for being too lax. However, the updated measures are a significant step in the right direction and will noticeably bolster gambling harm treatment and prevention efforts.
English Premier League teams have also pitched in, agreeing to remove operators’ names from the front of their shirts. However, they will continue cooperating with such companies, potentially exposing their players to additional harm. The ever-present stories of football stars falling prey to gambling addiction should hopefully raise awareness of this growing issue, allowing more individuals to seek help.