Paul Merson astonishingly hits out at his high-profile Sky Sports colleagues when talking about his gambling addiction earlier this month.
The ex-England and Arsenal footballer says it “sickens” him when he sees former players and managers in gambling adverts, yet he himself has featured alongside them as we’ve seen in previous years.
Merson is campaigning for betting laws to be changed as part of an upcoming government review, he created a BBC documentary about his gambling addiction and the industry, saying adverts are a “major trigger” and wants to see less of them on air.
“I see people in adverts and they are rich,” Merson said.
The 53-year-old, who had a 21-year league career, went on: “I could understand it if they were a League One or League Two player and had not earned much from the game, but the people doing the adverts are multi-millionaires.
“Do they need the money? Do you need that extra £50,000? It sickens me.
“If they knew a family member who was addicted, I don’t think they would do it. They don’t really understand the addiction and the compulsion and what it does to lives.
“Then you have podcasts sponsored by betting companies. Do you need to make that buck as well? It does my head in.”
Betting advertising in football is a major issue, to the point that it’s being debated as part of the 2005 Gambling Act review which is set to be announced in the coming weeks.
Campaigners want a ban on football shirt sponsorships, with adverts around the pitch and in club marketing – Campaigners want a ban on football shirt sponsorships – something that is a likely possibility next season.
Merson says he can’t set his eyes on adverts on TV during football matches and walks out of the room to avoid being triggered, but has struggled when adverts appear on radio stations and during breaks for comedy programmes, they are literally everywhere you go.
Speaking at a Gambling Reform Rally he added that clubs are “lazy” when they say they cannot find alternative sponsors and could go out of business.
“Most companies would want to be in the Premier League,” said Merson. “Why not offer your players less wages?”
English Football League chairman Rick Parry claims that a ban on gambling sponsorship could cause some of its 72 clubs “to go under” and would cost the EFL £40million a year in lost revenue. Ah, so it’s all about money and greed over fans and how gambling ruins lives and is designed to treat fans like mugs.
We all remember a few months back when a punter took a bookmakers to court over money he fairly won, but because it was a huge amount, the bookies wouldn’t hand it over. He had the last Says it all. Designed to cause mental health problems and addictions, but as long as the business continue to make money then who cares, right? Go look at the documentaries on the BBC, they have been rumbled before and will do again.
After his documentary, where he talks about his losses and how he had been addicted for his whole adult life, Merson expects to be contacted by clubs in order to offer younger players education. However, it’s no surprise that a response from them was minimal.
Merson told BBC Sport: “When I did my documentary, I thought I’d be inundated with clubs ringing up asking me to talk to the youngsters, but I don’t think clubs see gambling as a problem. If it was drinking or drugs they’d be all over it like a rash.”
When questioned if young players could be offered more education, he added: “One hundred percent.
“It doesn’t matter how much you earn, it’ll soon go. You can’t drink 30 grand a week, but you can gamble it in a week. Gambling is a hidden problem and it’s hard.
“That’s why so many people commit suicide because it’s always too late. When I was drinking it was visible, but this is an invisible problem so I was surprised [no clubs contacted me].”
Asked about the response to his documentary from his peers, Merson added: “Nothing.
“There is still a stigma about gambling. Everybody in their head is like ‘just have a bit of willpower’.
“The compulsion can be overwhelming. Many people don’t have a choice and don’t know they are problem gamblers. Advertising is a major trigger.”
A spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council, added: “During the pandemic, the regulated betting and gaming industry provided some of the country’s most popular sport with vital funding through sponsorship. Horse racing received £350m, the English Football League received £40m, and snooker, darts and rugby league received more than £12.5m.
“Betting advertising and sponsorship must comply with strict guidelines and safer gambling messaging is regularly and prominently displayed. Operators’ logos cannot be used on children’s clothing – including replica football kits – while the whistle to whistle ban has reduced the number of TV betting commercials viewed by children during live sports before the watershed by 97 per cent.
“According to the Gambling Commission, the rate of problem gambling has fallen to 0.3 per cent [in the year to September 2021], down from 0.6 per cent 18 months ago.”
If you need some help with your depression or gambling addiction, here’s some information…
– National Gambling Helpline Freephone 0808 8020 133
8am-midnight 7 days a week
www.nhs.uk/Livewell/addiction/Pages/gamblingaddiction.aspx (includes a short questionnaire, self-help tips and numbers)
– Samaritans 116 123
24 hours, 7 days a week
– Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
– Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill
Twitter users reacted as Paul Merson hits out at his high-profile Sky Sports colleagues…
Short memory?! pic.twitter.com/nxVkCrltle
— Chris Horner (@Chris_Horner1) March 8, 2022
His Soccer Saturday pals continued to shout BOOST after he came out with his problems. 🤷🏻♂️🤷🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/r2qS8Yr0XS
— Ralph Tears Pirlo (@Ginger_Pirlo) March 8, 2022
@LynneBrownOwl14: Totally agree, I can’t believe they are allowed to promote gambling
@joshknightson: What annoys me is no matter what you’re watching every and break has at least one commercial!
@Danielhurley100: Boost? Boost? Boost?
@SteTy102: Betting firms should be treated the same as tobacco firms are in regards to advertising.
@Ursy1892: You need self control. Always the victim never to blame.
@CharvillRichard: My personal belief is that gambling adverts should be banned completely as they encourage gamblers to lose more than they can afford.
@yater1: It’s gone crazy recently, it betting ads on every break on shirts in stadiums, has to stop!
@MarkAEverson: Does he ever speak about the time he was in Sky Bet ads? Did Sky just have access to his image as part of his contract, or did he just need the money, or didn’t see a problem at the time.
@bigox67: Betting companies should be banned from advertising in football INCLUDING SKY BET.
@DavidBriddon2: Lol @SoccerSaturday where he works is sponsored by skybet and the presenters are regularly in their adverts!!!
@foxblade98: The front of this cunt 😭was giving it the boost boost boost every single week