Why elite sportspeople are especially vulnerable
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wade: to walk with effort through water
swamp: an area of low-lying, uncultivated ground where water collects
greet: tooccur as a response to an action
hurl: to throw with great force
bombard: to subject (someone) to a continuous flow of questions, criticisms or information
breach: to break the law, promise, agreement or relationship
spearhead: to lead an attack or movement
billboard: a very large board on which advertisements are shown, especially on the side of a road
ground-breaking: something that is very new and a big change from other things of its type
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After a decade-long gambling addiction, Marc Williams, a once promising youngster at Wrexham FC, had lost control.
He had been wading through a swamp of debt for some time and now couldn’t pay off the interest on his credit cards. Still, he attempted to place a £10,000 bet. The screen greeted him with the words “insufficient funds”.
He hurled the iPad he was holding as hard as he could. Then he started throwing anything that wasn’t tied down in his living room. He screamed and cried, cursing the world and his misfortune.
Then, he locked eyes with his 18-month-old daughter sitting on the floor.
“She was just staring at me,” Williams reflects. “I’ll always have that image in my mind, of what I must have looked like to her. I calmed myself down and picked her up. I held her close and said out loud that I was going to get help. For the first time in my life, I meant it. I promised that I wouldn’t ruin her future any more.”
That was 7th November 2018—a date Williams recalls as he tightly shuts his eyes. He hasn’t placed a bet since.
Footballers in Britain are bombarded with the logos and slogans of betting companies. “They’re everywhere,” says James Grimes—founder of the Big Step, a campaign launched in 2019 to eradicate gambling advertising from football at all levels.
“They’re on the high street. They’re on the telly. They’re on the radio. The Football League is sponsored by Sky Bet. Major stadiums and teams are sponsored by them.”
Eight Premier League teams display gambling firms on the front of their shirts, while two more wear betting-related adverts on their sleeves.
Brentford, who have South African gambling company Hollywoodbets as their most prominent sponsor, are spearheaded on the field by Ivan Toney. The England striker, who is servingan eight-month ban for breaching betting rules 232 times, has been diagnosed with a gambling addiction.
The contrast between his suspension and addiction, and his team’s sponsor, has drawn attention. “It’s rank hypocrisy,” says Grimes. “These young men are forced to become walking billboards for online casinos and then lose their jobs if they use that product. “
However, change will come in 2026 when gambling companies will no longer be allowed on the front of top-flight teams’ shirts after a ground-breaking agreement between clubs.
Grimes called the move “incoherent”, pointing out gambling companies will still be able to occupy the players’ sleeves, pitch side hoardings, stadium floodlight pylons and the airwaves between the action.
But the shirt-front ban is an acknowledgment of the adverse effects of the sport’s close relationship with a product that has the potential to cause harm.
Adapted from this article by ECP coach Darren Lynch
Let’s chat about that
- Have you noticed an increase in betting offices where you live?
- What do people in you opinion tend to bet on where you are from?
- Do you think gambling should be legal? Why/not?
- Do you know any famous person/people from your country that have had a gambling problem?
- Do you believe there is enough education around gambling to avoid major problems for future generations?
- Although it’s an illness, would you find it difficult to forgive a gambling addict for putting you in huge debt?