The life of a professional football is one punctuated by relatively short spells of high intensity adrenaline soaked action before tens of thousands of people and long periods of boredom and inaction.
The majority of your time is spent in the testosterone heavy company of young men of a similar age and outlook, with long trips on coaches and planes it is inevitable that gambling will find itself filling some of these hours. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with these wealthy young men spending their wages as they choose but anybody who has ever placed a bet and felt their heart rate rise as their horse was still in the running in the home straight will know it’s an adrenaline rush and as such is addictive.
Andros Townsend had to withdraw from the England u21 squad last May after being embroiled in a betting scandal. He was found to be placing five figure bets on Premier League games, it must be noted that none of these were games he was involved in. He has since seeked counseling for his addiction. Northern Ireland Keith Gillespie was declared bankrupt in 2010 following a serious gambling addiction. In 2006 there were reports of massive gambling debts being accrued by members of the English football team with Michael Owen being named as one of the main players.
Of course it is not just footballers that are beset by gambling. Arsenal are currently investigating whether or not their academy coach Mark Arber gambled on the arrival of Mesut Ózil. Gordon Taylor, head of the PFA, has recently admitted to accruing a personal debt of over £100,000 with a bookie.
Football and gambling are cosy bedfellows, teams are sponsored by online gambling sites, Ray Winstone’s giant floating head growls at you with bet in play odds and hoardings display odds on every possible angle as the game plays out. It is a real assault on the senses and very easy with the aid of smartphones to make life changing decisions at the swipe of a finger. Football needs to be careful and act responsibly to ensure that gambling does not become a cancer on the game for both players and fans alike.