In a week where two more players face the prospect of lengthy bans for breaches of gambling rules, Arsenal legend Paul Merson yet again as been one of the sport’s most high-profile speakers regarding the issue.
The Gunner lifted 2 League titles, an FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners Cup, yet his career is just as famous for the vices he battled with.
Or more specifically, fighting his demons and coming out the other side.
The 55-year-old called his betting addiction worse than his obsession with drugs and alcohol.
They say you shouldn’t judge someone unless you walked in their shoes and, due to his journey, who better qualified to highlight the subject.
An illness that he estimates that over a 35-year period cost him 7 million, it’s no wonder that he thinks support is needed as much as punishment.
He couldn’t rationale he was spending house deposits at the bookies, so can empathize that the mind is not thinking.
To avoid phoning his bookmaker he would try and break his own fingers, so he can relate that no one deliberately intends to break any rules.
He would be so consumed he attempted suicide three times, so this is more serious than the football pitch.
The Sky Sports pundits now chooses for his wife to be in charge of his money as a strategy to cope. Yet those in power don’t seem interested in solutions.
He refers himself an ‘addict’. Where some people can bet a lot and be okay, he accepts even one tiny bet makes him Ill. So, when he says it’s dangerous to take away the outlet/distraction of football, those in power should listen.
The FA and FIFA judge young millionaires with lots of spare time for being tempted, yet plaster their product with adverts and sponsors from bookmakers.
That’s not to say it’s okay for grown men to break regulations they knew existed.
Yet Merson is asking for common sense. It’s believed that Tonali only betted on AC Milan to win, the team he played for. So, in theory not impacting on the integrity of the game.
Merson feels the bigger issue is the sums/regularities/times of bets which highlight the Italian might have a problem.
By taking away his escapism, how does that make him feel mentally better?
Isolating him from training leads to an increase in boredom, more free time to feel that void.
Punishing him in public, more self-worth and a desire to find validation.
Newcastle will be without their 55 million signing for the summer, it could yet cost Italy a place at the Euros, all for the sake of finding a deterrent to stop others.
Yet it’s not a deterrent if that individual is poorly. That’s Merson’s point.
This may be a 23-year-old who needs help, and yet you hear little chat about support on offer to him.
Would there be the lack of empathy if the addiction was drugs or alcohol?
That is the great point Merson has made for years. Mostly you can see if a man or woman is drunk, while there are side effects to what drugs you take.
Gambling you can’t see. There are signs that if your mate was up all-night partying. How would you know if they had just lost a fortune?
For the sake of ticking a box, I’m not sure how players are supported by this ban, but worse how this encourages their peers to ask for help.
Law of averages there will be other footballers fighting daily with this illness who need to ask for help. Why would they now if they realise it will impact their one piece of escapism?
Free support for anyone affected by gambling harms across Great Britain. Speak to the National Gambling Helpline 24/7.
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