This week the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has called for the Premier League to do more to tackle gambling addiction.
Mr Stevens has described gambling problems as one of a number of ‘new threats’ that the NHS faces, whilst Gamble Aware, an independent charity, also said the relationship between sport and gambling has now reached a ‘tipping point’.
This comes in the same week that Notts County defender, Matt Tootle, opened up about his own struggles with gambling addiction on twitter and said that gambling in football is rife.
Matt Tootle had previously discussed his mental health issues in 2017. On Wednesday he said: “I’ve been a compulsive gambler for as long as I remember and it has brought to me some of my worst memories.
“This problem is rife in football and something needs to be done about it and I’m hoping to also help with that now.
He went on to say: “Many times I have tried to quit and been unsuccessful and almost lost loved ones closest to me who tried to help,” he said. “It’s an illness and until you decide you actually want to help yourself you will never get over it.
“I’m now one month clean from betting and I’m proud of it. On top of my mental health, I understand I’m a complicated character, but one thing I’m sure of is my strength deep within which makes me never give up in any walk of life.
“I think the best thing I have ever done is be open and honest about my mental health.
“I feel prouder than ever about how I came through the darkest days and be able to help others, which is why I feel I need to be open and honest for the first time about another problem that has been part of my life since I was 16 years old.”
In 2017 John Hartson, former Arsenal and Wales striker, said that six managers in England and Scotland had sought help from him to help their own players deal with gambling problems.
It has also been suggested that some gambling companies actively target Premier League players because of their high disposable incomes.
When talking about gambling addiction in relation to Premier League clubs, Simon Stevens from the NHS draws particular attention to foreign betting companies who he said were not doing enough to support initiatives to help addicts.
Betting companies in Britain are encouraged to make donations to Gamble Aware. But, as reported in The Times in July 2018, a number of foreign firms do not donate.
Currently nine Premier League clubs are sponsored by betting companies, and Mr Stevens said that the NHS would be contacting the Premier League to ensure that these companies ‘do the right thing’.
Mr Stevens was making a speech at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester in which he also said: “There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems.
“Doctors report that two thirds of problem gamblers get worse without help and the NHS does offer specialist treatment.
“But reports that foreign gambling companies are failing to play their part in co-funding help for addicts are deeply concerning.
“Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces – the health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility.
“The NHS will now work with the Premier League on how we persuade these foreign gambling companies to do the right thing.”
A spokesperson for Gamble Aware said: “With nearly half the clubs in the Premier League, and over two thirds of the Championship League sponsored by gambling companies, we are seriously concerned the relationship between sport and gambling has reached a tipping point.
“We would like to see all clubs, leagues, and broadcasters who profit from gambling work with us to help fund treatment for this hidden addiction.”