Adams Calls Gambling an ‘Epidemic’ in Football

Former Arsenal captain, Tony Adams, has called for UK football to sever its ties with gambling companies. The announcement marks the 20th anniversary since Adams launched his charity, Sporting Chance. The charity provides much needed support for athletes coping with mental health and addiction problems.

The Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal football club play.

“When a sports person reaches out we are there to help.” ©who?du!nelson/Unsplash

Gambling Ads to Blame?

Tony Adams MBE has captained for both Arsenal and England. For all of his 22 years at Arsenal, he played as a center back. During his time playing for the Gunners, Adams won the team four top division titles. He captained the squad to win three FA Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and two Football League Cups.

Off the pitch, Adams has been equally celebrated for his football management roles. He has managed English teams, including Wycombe Wanderers and Portsmouth. Outside of the UK, Adams spent time in charge of Gabala in Azerbaijan and Granada in Spain. In 2019, in a move that surprised many, he was chosen as President of the Rugby Football League, taking over from Andy Burnham.

His footballing successes have been recognized and honored in the ‘English Football Hall of Fame’ and the ’50 Greatest Gunners’ poll. A statue of him was even erected outside the Emirates Stadium in 2011. Despite all of these sporting achievements, Adams claims that his greatest accomplishment lies elsewhere.

In 2000, Adams launched Sporting Chance, a charity dedicated to providing support, treatment and education for sports professionals battling addictions. Adams himself has been vocal about his own past experiences overcoming alcohol and drug addictions. He founded Sporting Chance to help others like himself. The charity helps sports professionals to combat any number of addictions, be it alcohol, drug or gambling related. Speaking about setting up Sporting Chance, Adams has said “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done”.

In 2019, Sporting Chance dealt with over 1,200 cases. Of those cases, 653 of those cases involved footballers. According to Adams, 70% of the addictive disorders affecting football, that Sporting Chance deals with, are gambling related. “With football, we’re talking gambling. Premier League. It’s a bit of an epidemic, to be honest with you”. Such statistics indicate clearly that football has a gambling problem. Adams has chosen the 20th anniversary of Sporting Chance to draw attention to this concerning issue.

“Ideally I would get the advertising out of the game because it does influence people. They spend fortunes on the ads for a reason. It’s because it works. It normalizes it and that’s the issue I have got.”Tony Adams, MBE, Founder, Sporting Chance

Adams stressed that his charity is not against gambling or drinking, rather it is there to help athletes who are struggling with addictions. “We are not involved in the politics of the gambling companies or sponsorship. We don’t take any sponsorship from gambling or alcohol. It’s not part of me. I can’t be associated with something that nearly killed me. That would be morally wrong.”

Adams also noted that while gambling is a particular issue in football, other sports face different problems. ” We’ve got the cricket contract 18 months ago, we’ve been working with cricketers, we’ve been working with women, there’s a lot of women in our game now. The stuff with working with women, there seems to be more panic attacks, anxieties. Similarly, if you work with jockeys, there’s pills, there’s specifics for that industry and addictions.”

A Widespread Issue in Football

The news comes shortly after Hamilton manager Brian Rice admitted to having broken betting rules. In January, Rice reported himself to the Scottish Football Association, after coming clean about a gambling addiction. He has since been charged for breaching game rules, receiving a 10-match ban. Five of these will be served now, with the next five deferred until 2021 for good behavior.

“I am eternally grateful to the club for its unwavering support, both seen and unseen. I have spoken to my management team and players and they have been great and they understand the reason for me speaking out today. It is my intention to atone through openness, honesty and togetherness. I look forward to a future founded on truth and commitment to recovery and it is my wish that anyone who feels vulnerable, helpless or hopeless in the grip of this silent yet destructive disease can come forward and seek help.”Brian Rice, Head Coach, Hamilton Academical Football Club

Rice has not shied away from being public about his 30 year long gambling addiction. Through being open with fans and friends about the extent of the problem, he is hoping to combat the stigma associated with addiction. Hamilton Chief Executive and colleague to Rice, Colin McGowan has praised his friend’s honesty. “As a recovering addict myself – and somebody who has dedicated the last 20 years to counseling individuals across the country, from all walks of life – I believe Brian’s actions are a show of colossal strength and inspiration”.

Echoing similar concerns to Tony Adams, McGowan called on the Scottish Football Association to allow an amnesty on gambling offenses . This would help those who work in the industry, both on and off the pitch, to open up about any problems that they might have with gambling.

“It is my intention to write to my colleagues at the SPFL to table a proposal to the Scottish FA’s Professional Game Board for the introduction of a gambling amnesty in our game: one that will enable people to confront their addiction in a safe and non-judgmental environment, with help and support readily available.”

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