A study by a professor of psychology has revealed that professional footballers are at risk of developing gambling problems when injured, dropped, or sent out on loan.
Dietmar “Didi” Hamann played 191 times for Liverpool winning the FA Cup and League Cup twice, the UEFA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. He also lost £288,000 spread betting during a cricket match between Australia and South Africa where he wagered £2,800 for every run the Aussies would accumulate above 340. Unfortunately, for the German, he would also lose £2,800 for every run below 340. They collapsed for 237.
“Every wicket felt like a stab in the heart,” Hamann wrote in his autobiography The Didi Man.
Hamann isn’t the only former professional footballer to suffer from gambling addiction. The former Welsh centre forward, John Hartson, visits gamblers anonymous twice weekly, and has said he will continue to attend until he is 70. The former Man Utd winger Keith Gillespie blew through £7m during a £100k per day habit. The former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson wrote in his autobiography how he sometimes felt like breaking his fingers to prevent him from phoning the bookies.
The gambling habits of professional footballers caught the attention of Professor Robert Rogers. The Bangor University Professor has authored numerous publications on gambling studies and his latest concentrates on the likes of Hartson, Hamann, and co.
Working alongside associates in Oxford and London, Rogers and his team sat down with professional and former professional footballers from the UK to listen to their honest feedback on gambling addiction.
Two things sprang up out of the discussions.
The first was a propensity to gamble more when injured, and the other trigger was being dropped or farmed out on loan to a different club. The professor believes gambling took the place of the excitement of playing.
Rogers believes football clubs should pay particular attention to players who are injured, dropped, or sent out on loan, to show understanding and support in a time of vulnerability for the player.
The research also indicated a problem with peer pressure brought on by youngsters wanting to fit in with the older more familiar faces at a football club. A problem that harks back to the beginning of time when the problem was drinking alcohol and not gambling.
Footballers playing in England aren’t allowed to bet on football matches. While this reduces potential cheating opportunities, it doesn’t stop them developing gambling problems. Hamann lost that money betting on cricket, and there is a host of top pro footballers who love playing poker such as Gerard Pique, Max Kruse, and Neymar. Pique is currently playing at the European Poker Tour (EPT) in Barcelona, presumably with the blessing of his club. Kruse was dropped and fined by his club coach after leaving £60,000 worth of poker winnings in the back of a cab.
Professor Roger’s research appears in Addiction Research Theory.