10 Professional Footballers Who Had Gambling Addictions

10 Professional Footballers Who Had Gambling Addictions
Professional football players are among the best paid sportsmen today. They live a life of training, big games and luxury. They all opt for the best sports cars, biggest brand clothing and palatial mansions. There are few downsides to their unique lives. Namely social media abuse, the media intrusion into their ‘private’ lives and often sports betting, we look at 10 who have had gambling problems. 

1 Matthew Etherington 

Fans of the Irons (West Ham) and of the EPL English Premier League will know this player from his play down the wing. He liked to bet on poker and horse racing. He accumulated debts at one point to £800,000 which saw the club help him out, his football wages not being enough. Thanks to Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance, Matthew is now assistant manager at EFL league club Peterborough. The Sporting Chance clinic was founded in 2000 for pro athletes battling addictions. 


2 Michael Chopra 

Another player who ended up needing the support from the Sporting Chance clinic is Michael Chopra. A striker who moved clubs and divisions never quite reaching the higher ranks doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. He has said he racked up debts of 2 million. It was bantered around that with other players he would place bets on the way to the game; up to an insane £30,000 bet! Charges were also brought against him by the British Horseracing Authority for suspicious betting activity. He fully retired in 2016 after playing lower and lower standard football in India. 

3 Wayne Rooney 

Always a character on the field with an enviable talent the world class Rooney didn’t do so well at picking a winner. Reputably spending half a million at a Manchester casino in one evening. That’s a lot even for someone earning 55,000 per week. As an 18 year old playing away for England and Manchester United boredom was a reason he gave for getting into it. His wages increased to 300,000 per week and amazingly he quit gambling on his own. He really is made of some special sauce.. He went across to the MLS leagues in America but from a football position we had seen the best. He moved into management with Derby County first as a player manager with the irony that they have a sports betting sponsor 32Red. 

4 Eidur Gudjohnsen 

Unlike Rooney, Eidur is also said to have lost half a million gambling but this was over a few months instead of an evening. He played roulette and blackjack during times of no action due to injury. He had a very good career with Chelsea Football Club over a long time giving him access to lots of money. A common denominator among the list here. He has also like Wayne and others moved into a management role at Iceland FH in his homeland of Iceland. 

5. Kyle Lafferty 

Currently still playing for his native Northern Ireland and a cypriot club Αnorthosis Famagusta FC as of publish time. It’s not often that a player admits gambling addiction whilst still in a good place professionally. Perhaps it is partly due to the spotlight being shone on activity that brought him a 23k fine. He was betting on football. At his height he played for Rangers and Burnley but couldn’t quite help Kilmarnock escape relegation despite bagging 14 goals. He still features well for the national team. 


6. Joey Barton 

Joey Barton is certainly a character and never far from the origin of a story. He was a player who got into many scrapes on and off the pitch. He was charged twice for assault and spent 74 days in prison. A journeyman that you might not always play- but someone you’d want to take into battle. In 2017 his football betting antics resulted in a charge and ban, after a decade of gambling. He also turned into a manager but had to wait for the ban to end. He is currently manager of Fleetwood town. 


7. David Bentley 

Born in Peterborough David found himself a youth player for Arsenal where at 14 he started to gamble. He went on in football to make a very good player indeed appearing 7 times for England. Blackburn Rovers and Spurs were his main contracts of note. He went on to other smaller clubs as his fitness ebbed like every footballer and the only other notable placement a loan spell at FC Rostov. He self confessed his gambling problems and at the peak was placing 100 bets per day. He got clear in 2005 when at Blackburn Rovers. 

8. Andros Townsend 

A bad gambling habit certainly affected this player's career. A 4 month ban in 2013 and he admitted to gambling in bed one night losing £46,000. Again we hear how a player has cited boredom as a contributing factor. Waiting for an away game in a hotel room the day after he saw an advert online for a free bet. He now plays for Everton and still scores exceptional goals on occasion. 13 caps for England don’t lie he certainly has lots of footballing ability. But the player moved a lot on loan early on in his career. It is when he said the gambling became really bad. He took counseling in the end and it saved him and his footballing career. 


9 Dietmar Hamann 

The once German midfielder turned to gambling at low points throughout his career. He didn’t enjoy being away from his children and the breakdown of his marriage were low points in particular. In one night he gambled away £200,000. He was also well known for his contributions on the pitch for Liverpool football club where he retired. He attempted getting into management however he seems to be on TV as a pundit and writes column inches for different media outlets. 

10. Paul Merson 

Mostly known as an Arsenal playmaker in the late 80’s he also represented England in the 1992 euros and the world cup in 1998. He is now a pundit with sky sports no longer managing where he tried it out without success. Between those England performances when he was in his prime for Arsenal too he admitted he was addicted to alcohol, cocaine and gambling. This may account for why he said he preferred his football the most for Aston Villa where he signed late in his career. His gambling debts truly ruined him financially at one point owing 7 Million and losing the house. The addictions also left him battling mental health. Merson said once that he kidds himself he would drink another day instead and just get through today to keep going and so on. His betting was mostly sports based and very varied; it must have been based on little knowledge. For example he would be betting on obscure clubs in leagues you never heard of. Merson, who used to play with Tony Adams, booked himself into his clinic The Sporting Chance. He said later that he beat alcohol and drugs but the gambling he couldn’t stop. (It's a touch disappointing to see an advert for gambling before this podcast. Nothing to do with the podcaster channel, just the way advertising placements work so even trying to promote and find answers to gambling addiction someone is trying to get someone hooked). 


My thoughts go out to all battling gambling addiction. 

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