By John Gillen

THE issues with gambling addiction is something that I have seen first hand in my former career of being a racehorse jockey/trainer and my current work in helping addicts. 

Football definitely needs to take more action to help tackle what is an increasingly concerning issue which is having devastating effects on families up and down the country.

Gambling ads are seemingly everywhere in Football, they are shown on football kits, billboards, tv ads and are even used as stadium sponsors.

When you factor this in with the huge audience figures that football generates you can start to understand why the issue has increased so much throughout the years as well as the concerning figures that come with it.   

Sports such as cricket for example have seen the issues that these advertisements are contributing to and subsequently banned them completely from the sport.

This sort of action seems absolutely inconceivable in relation to football as gambling evidently has a very strong hold over the sport with over 60% of English clubs in the top two divisions being sponsored by betting companies. To understand why this has escalated into such a massive issue, we must first understand addiction. 

When an addiction takes over, individuals simply lose control. it’s a disease that takes hold of the mind and can be impossible to control without the right help and guidance. 

The effects of gambling addiction can be absolutely devastating to individuals and their loved ones as many gamblers who let the addiction take hold without seeking help simply end up losing everything. 

It’s this moment of despair that convinces some to reach out but others who are still too afraid to make this step regrettably end up taking their own life. 
This is what makes gambling addiction one of the biggest causes of suicide in this country. 

Constant exposure to gambling advertisements has fuelled its popularity and made it into a regular topic of discussion for most when talking about football.
Couple this in with never ending promotional offers such as free bets that are constantly sucking people in and encouraging constant betting throughout matches with enticing offers on final results. 

Both these factors are very evidently fuelling gambling addiction and without regulation the problem will only become more widespread.

The FA themselves have made some questionable decisions recently when faced with issues relating to addiction. 

To me issues like this show a major lack of understanding about addiction which is very concerning from English footballs biggest governing body.

This is not the only issue that has highlighted an apparent lack of understanding from key organisations in football. 

Manager of Hamilton Accies in Scotland, Brian Rice recently admitted to the Scottish FA that he was suffering from gambling addiction and had placed bets on football matches as a result, which is against the rules. 

The admission was met with stern action with the SFA as Brian Rice received a fine and was banned for 10 matches. 

Giving out harsh punishments to individuals suffering from a disease is not going to solve anything as it essentially conveys a message that if you are suffering from addiction then you would be best advised not to say anything.

Again, another example of lack of awareness and understanding from a key organisation in Football about the wider issues that gambling addiction is causing throughout the country.

Both these instances also contradict some great campaigns that are going on in football such as promoting discussions about mental health.

More needs to be done to regulate the gambling advertisements in football but also the subject of addiction is something that needs to be more common in the sport in order to raise enough awareness about the disease. 

To help encourage this, I am currently in contact with several football clubs up and down the country who are interested in setting up a partnership with Rehab Clinics Group to help raise awareness about addiction through football.

There is still a stigma associated with addiction in the UK something which I have seen first hand when dealing with alcohol addiction myself over 17 years ago and subsequently while providing treatment in towns across the country. 

I hope that pressure from the Government will help spark a change in Football and encourage more to be done.

In the meantime raising as much awareness as possible about the problem and the help that is out there is the best way to tackle this issue head, if anyone is in need of help with addiction then you can either speak my team at Rehab Clinics Group or get in touch with a local addiction treatment specialist near you. 

John Gillen is Director of one of the largest providers of addiction treatment in the UK, Rehab Clinics Group and is a recovering addict. More information on his work is available here.