Footballers are taking out pay-day loans to help fund gambling addictions – as Stoke winger Matthew Etherington admitted going to loan sharks to feed his habit.
Colin Bland, chief executive of charity Sporting Chance, today revealed an increasing number of players are seeking help – with some using the controversial loan firms, which charge sky-high interest rates.
“We’ve had several sportsmen who have got caught up in taking out pay-day loans in order to place bets,” said Bland.
“We work with players from all levels and it’s not uncommon for us to have one in a cycle of pay-day loans and gambling.”
Bland said an un-named player gambled £7m in three years and even high earners can’t afford the amount they’re betting.
“We have stories of young players receiving emails saying ‘We’ve noticed you’ve not gambled with us in a while, we’ve put £1,000 in your casino account just to get you going again,’ said Bland. “It’s not just the amount players are betting, but the number of bets they’re putting on, we have instances where players are laying 50 bets out a day.”
Etherington was loaned £300,000 when he was at West Ham to help pay off gambling debts of £800,000. He admitted: “There was a point at West Ham where I was clearing £30,000 to £40,000 a month and within a week or two that was gone. It was pretty bad.”
Etherington was eventually helped by Sporting Chance, founded by former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams, which runs seminars to educate players, and a move to Stoke in 2009.
And then I was getting it from elsewhere to feed my habit.
“I was spending my month’s wages pretty quickly so there was no money to pay bills, which I rarely did anyway as a compulsive gambler.
“I had friends of friends who had money around them and they would loan me money and I’d pay interest on top of that.
“If I loaned £5,000 there would be 10 per cent or 20 per cent on top of that in some cases so I’d give back £5,500 at the end of the month if it was 10 per cent or £6,000 if it was 20 per cent.”
PAUL MERSON: The former Villa forward and Walsall boss considered breaking his own fingers in an attempt to stop him phoning his bookie at the peak of his gambling problems at Villa Park in 1998. He blew £7m in a career blighted by his battles with booze and drugs and he later went broke after cashing in his £800,000 pension.
KEITH GILLESPIE: In 1995 he blew £47,000 in one day on the horses before wasting another £15,000 the next day chasing his losses. In total, the former Newcastle winger’s addiction cost him much of his £7.2m career earnings.
MICHAEL CHOPRA: The Ipswich striker has a long-standing gambling addiction for which he has received help from the Sporting Chance clinic. In 2011, a trial of a Newcastle drugs gang heard that Chopra owed £250,000 in gambling debts. Last year he was found guilty by the British Horseracing Authority of corrupting horse races. He was banned from racing for 10 years.