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Football: GAMBLING EPIDEMIC; EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION HOW STARS CAN LOSE FORTUNES AND WRECK THEIR LIVES REVEALED It's the major addiction problem in football today REVEALED Bookies lure players into corruption to pay debts REVEALED Player lost pounds 20,000 on coach journey to game.

Byline: paul SMITH

GAMBLING among footballers is leaving a trail of destruction and corruption in its wake.

Peter Kay, the chief executive of the Sporting Chance clinic The Sporting Chance Clinic is a registered British based charity, first set up by former Arsenal and England football captain Tony Adams to provide a specialist addiction and recovery facility for sportsmen and women  which was originally created to support people with all forms of addiction - drink, drugs, sex and gambling - last night issued a chilling warning to a sport in the grip of a dangerous gambling frenzy.

Kay has endorsed Sunday Mirror Sport findings that gambling is like a cancer coursing through football and shows no distinction between the highest-paid superstars and unsung, low-paid professionals.

Kay said: "I would certainly agree that gambling is the major problem addiction within football. We have seen an incredible rise in problematic gambling, far outweighing drink or drugs.

"It's certainly the hidden disease. It would not be unusual for somebody to contact us one day with pounds 20,000-worth of gambling debts only not to hear from him for six months when his debt has hit pounds 200,000."

Kay went on: "When a footballer turns up for training and he has a hangover, or is drunk or in rare cases under the influence of a drug, it's all too apparent.

"The same player with a problematic gambling addiction looks fine on the outside, but that's where it stops.

"Mentally his every thought will be on when he can gamble next, how will he get the money without his partner knowing, and how long will it take for him to redeem his losses from the day before.

"The focus, which should be on his football, is transferred to the mess he is in through gambling.

"People's lives are being destroyed by gambling. It breaks up relationships and destroys careers."

Sporting Chance clearly believe this is a problem that should not remain underground. In fact, they have set up seminars on gambling although, at the moment, they're under-used.

Kay's work with addicts, supported by the PFA and FA, has been well documented. Strict confidentiality, which is the fabric of the organisation, prevents him from discussing individual cases.

However, Sunday Mirror Sport has discovered a player earning about pounds 3,000 a week who ran up a pounds 35,000 debt to a bookmaker over the space of a couple of days.

The bookmaker called the individual, expressed his sympathy and claimed the player had been unlucky - but asked him to send him a cheque. The player didn't have the money so the bookmaker, who had given him the excessive line of credit, gave the player the chance to wipe out the debt by manipulating the odds in spread betting Spread betting is any of various types of wagering on the outcome of an event, where the pay-off is based on the accuracy of the wager, rather than a simple "win or lose" outcome.  - by getting himself shown a red or yellow card.

Kay went on: "I can't comment on the possibilities of corruption but it's a desperate man we are talking about, in the dark recesses of addiction, who is wide open to that sort of thing.

"Spread betting in football is massive. Corruption is something football might have to look at.

"If, for example, a player was given a way out of debt through ensuring he got a red or yellow card, I shudder to think about any further ramifications ramifications nplAuswirkungen pl . There are certainly cases of agents pushing players into a move which from the outside doesn't make sense and the player clearing the gambling debt through his signing-on fee.

"That doesn't address the issue of his addiction. It simply clears the debt for the time being.

"Often I have received phone calls from desperate players, some even contemplating suicide. We arrange to talk the next day after I've attempted to show the player that we can help.

"Often I'll meet them face to face and they leave with the knowledge that there is a way out. Then we hear nothing.

"I'll phone them to check they're all right and frequently they'll explain that they're great and they had a win at the casino, so problem solved!

"At Sporting Chance we have seen countless cases of players who get the 'buzz' from internet access See how to access the Internet. , in many ways trying to replicate the 'buzz' they get from football.

"More often than not, football itself is the primary drug of choice and other addictions come out when not playing, retired or injured in·jure  
tr.v. in·jured, in·jur·ing, in·jures
1. To cause physical harm to; hurt.

2. To cause damage to; impair.


"With time on their hands and no outside interests boredom steps in. Life becomes 'normal' for a person who has become accustomed to an abnormal existence, an elevated position within society, 40,000 cheering your every move, adulated while simply walking down a street.

"Normality normality, in chemistry: see concentration.  to a footballer can leave them flat and deflated de·flate  
v. de·flat·ed, de·flat·ing, de·flates
a. To release contained air or gas from.

b. To collapse by releasing contained air or gas.

, searching for ways to get the 'buzz' back.

"The anonymity of gambling is seductive se·duc·tive  
Tending to seduce; alluring: "his sad and fastidious but ever seductive Irish voice" John Fowles.
, and the in-bred desire to win which is in all top footballers can be exerted in the gaming rooms on the internet.

"It must be highlighted, though, that like drinking, gambling in moderation is fun and not detrimental to health!

"It's when every waking thought of a player is how to recoup recoup

To sell an asset at a price sufficient to recover the original outlay or to offset a previous loss.
 the previous night's losses that a problem exists. That's hopefully where Sporting Chance steps in - if asked."
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 19, 2006

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