Former professional footballer calls on clubs to help players avoid gambling addictions
- Ex-Sunderland footballer Michael Chopra opens up about his gambling addiction
- In the Priory Group podcast, Sporting Highs and Lows, Chopra describes how he began gambling when playing in a youth team
- He calls for clubs to reject shirt sponsorship from gambling firms
A former professional footballer has opened up about his struggles with gambling addiction, and called for players to receive more support and education about the dangers of betting. Speaking on a Priory Group podcast, former Newcastle and Sunderland footballer Michael Chopra calls for clubs to reject shirt sponsorship from gambling firms, and said the time had come to “educate” the next generation of footballers about the dangers of gambling.
The issue of sponsorship by gambling companies has been in the news recently, after Gary Lineker criticised the promotion of gambling on some clubs’ social media. Chopra says clubs being sponsored by gambling firms had caused him issues, suggesting that seeing advertising logos when shaking hands after a match was a trigger for his addiction: “If clubs want to help these players, why can’t they cut out these gambling ads?” He explains that he believes clubs are not incentivised to help players with problems, because it’s easier for them to say “see you later, we’ll bring someone else in” if there is a problem, rather than to offer support.
On the podcast, Michael opens up about his gambling habit, which grew more serious as he progressed to larger clubs and earned more money. He describes how his parents realized he had a problem when he asked them for help with paying bills, despite his high wages.
However, he has effusive praise for Ipswich Town, the club he eventually moved to, which he says is a “proper family club” and gave him the support he needed to recover. He describes how the extent of his addiction only hit him when he was in a clinic being treated for it, and he thought: “I'm in a dark place, and I need to try and get out of there.”
Having been through these experiences, Michael firmly believes more could and should be done to prevent other players developing similar addictions. He remembers how his first experience of gambling was in a youth team, when he was earning “seventy pounds a week”, and would play on slot machines to “kill time” waiting for the bus to take him home after training. He says that if you want to make a difference “you have to go to the grassroots level, the 15 or 16-year-olds year olds coming into the game” and “educate” them about the dangers of gambling.
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About Priory Group
The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East.