Sportsbetting is great, but betting and athletes just don’t mix; both corruption and gambling addiction are regularly associated with footballers.
Sportsbetting is a fantastic leisure activity. Fans the world over enjoy placing the occasional wager on their favorite football club, cricket team or tennis player. But all agree that players, managers and officials should be kept out of the betting. There is nothing more upsetting that finding out outcomes have been compromised by match-fixing or point-shaving.
• Match-fixing, point-shaving and spot-fixing are bigger problems in English football than most fans would like to admit
• Recent scandals have included players and managers like DJ Campbell, Claus Vundekvam and Andros Townshend
• In addition, many footballers let the money and fame go to their heads and develop serious gambling addictions
In Britain these breaches of rule results in fines and suspensions; in the US they usually result in life-time bans from the sport. To the chagrin of fans, numerous high-profile UK footballers have been embroiled in betting scandals in recent years.
In addition to corruption, there is another way in which sports and betting don’t mix. Pro athletes seem to be more susceptible than most to develop gambling addiction. It seems the combination of large amounts of disposable income, a fast-paced lifestyle and the need for constant stimulation, push many into the doors of casinos, betting shops and British poker rooms. We’ll run through some footballers who fit into both categories.
UK footballer DJ Campbell
Yesterday Blackburn Rovers striker DJ Campbell was arrested along with several other men on charges of “corruption in the game.” The authorities haven’t released many details, but most reports consider the arrests to be connected with “spot-fixing.” This refers to artificially producing certain events in the game with the purpose of making money for proposition bettors. Given that it’s Campbell’s second arrest for corruption, its looks high time he gives betting, or the sport of football, up.
UK football tycoon Mike Ashley
In 2011 Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley admitted to blowing GBP 1 million in two hours at Asper’s Casino. Rather than leaving in a fit of rage, the Daily Mail reported that “He had a smile on his face and tipped the dealer £700, which is astonishing really because people usually only give a tip if they’ve won.”
His love for gambling is well-documented and a source told reporters that he often puts down “tens of thousands” on single hands at the blackjack table. While it’s nice to hear that he can take losses with dignity, he should really brush up on his skills or give up the activity.
Last year Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Andros Townshend was suspended and fined GBP 18,000 by the UK Football Association. His transgression? Not match-fixing or point-shaving, but merely betting on football. That’s not a crime, but it is a violation of Football Association rules. He’s lucky he didn’t bet on his own team, penalties for athletes who violate British gambling laws are much harsher.
The Stoke footballer’s struggles with gambling addiction have been well-documented. Debuting as a pro at only 15 years of age proved difficult for him, and he quickly developed a tendency to bet on horses and greyhounds and play poker. He estimated in 2010 that he had lost GBP 1.5 million over the years, having very little to show for his professional footballer’s salary. He also had about GBP 800,000 in outstanding debts when he finally gave up gambling. Let’s hope that he can continue to keep his nose clean.
Norwegian Claus Vundekvam
In 2012 the former Southampton manager shocked the English Premier League by admitting that he and his team engaged in major spot-fixing while he was manager. He told reporters that he would choose players for the opening throw according to bets he had made, and have players intentionally commit penalties to receive yellow cards from referees. He also admitted to having team staff members place bets on his behalf. He was relatively unapologetic about it, pointing to the fact that spot-fixing doesn’t influence the outcome of games:
“The results were never on the agenda. That is something I would never have done. We were professional competitors…We could make deals with the opposing captain about, for example, betting on the first throw, the first corner, who started with the ball, a yellow card or a penalty.”
Germany’s Deitmarr Hamann
The former Bayern Munich and Liverpool midfielder was open about his gambling addiction toward the end of his football career, even admitting to have blown GBP 200,000 in a single casino outing. But fans were shocked when shortly retiring the online sportsbook in Britain Sporting Index demanded GBP 600,000 in unpaid debts. Not only did he gamble too much, he also seems to have been pretty bad at it.
Irish football Niall NcNamee
Earlier this year Offally forward Niall McNamee penned a series of blogs chronicling his struggle with gambling addiction over the past several years. Five years ago in Australia he won $6,000 playing roulette on his first-ever casino outing. Call it beginner’s luck, because the story that follows is much less rosy. Later that night he lost all the money, and estimates that he’s lost EUR 200,000 total at casinos. He says it got so bad that sometimes he would sneak food from his mother’s house to eat.