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Impact of Gambling on Sport

Oliver Jones reports on the impact of gambling on sport and players.

Former Celtic striker John Hartson, remembered as a fearless and powerful forward, was not the first but arguably stood as the most prominent example of a professional athlete being affected by problem gambling.

Having struggled to keep his family together amidst a growing gambling issue that almost cost him his life to the same extent as his cancer battle, John Hartson now stands as a positive example of the fight against problem gambling.

The most recent one saw Joey Barton being hit with a potentially career-ending 18-month ban from all football activity by the Football Association for breaching betting rules after it surfaced that the midfielder placed 1,260 bets on football matches over the last 10 years, including the games he played in.

The Football Association is taking a firm stance on a burning issue of participants in English football taking part in gambling activity to tackle corruption within the sport.

The betting industry is currently going through an enormous expansion in England thanks to the technical advances which have introduced betting commodities such as remote online betting and especially In-Play betting. According to their most recent estimates, British people lost £12.6 billion last year alone betting on the sport.

The Guardian reports that 48% of the people questioned by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission have admitted to gambling at least once in the previous month.

A good portion of people betting on sports consists of professional athletes themselves. Research on footballers and sportspeople, in general, is rare and scarce, although the very athletes have recently been identified as the more vulnerable social category than the general population.

The focus on addiction among professional athletes, footballers, in particular, has taken a front-row seat recently with researchers doing their best to highlight the severity of gambling problems within the sport itself.

The Independent points out new research that accentuates gambling as such a severe problem in British top-flight football that it has started to affect players' performance on the pitch itself. Players are said to be struggling to concentrate on their game due to worrying about coping with financial losses.

"Players gamble as a way of relieving the boredom on journeys to away games and after training on pre-season tours," said Mr. Graeme Law, who researched as part of his PhD.

University of Chester's Graeme Law interviewed 34 current and former professional footballers anonymously, some of who were Premier League stars, English international players, and lower-league stars.

In addition to gambling being presented as a problem, another reason for concern is betting at obscure and unchecked places. According to, which ranks all-new betting companies in the United Kingdom, all new players should take time to research and test different bookmakers, read about their licenses and have a look at the general bookmaker reviews which are also available on this site.

Page Reference

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  • JONES, O. (2017) Impact of Gambling on Sport [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Oliver Jones is a freelance journalist.