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Staggering number of footballers check into rehab centres

David Bentley has seeked help for his addiction issues

According to recent reports, around 35 football players sought treatment in UK rehabilitation centres last season for a slew of addictive disorders, including gambling.

While several athletes were admitted for the abuse of substances like drugs and alcohol, those struggling with gambling addiction were the most prominent.

Some of the EPL players that received treatment for their gambling addiction included David Bentley, Michael Chopra, Paul Merson, Dominic Matteo, Matthew Etherington and several others.

The majority of these football stars were admitted to the Sporting Chance clinic, which was created to cater to retired and current players that were going through emotional, mental, and addiction-related issues. The medical centre was founded by former football player and manager Tom Adams, who previously struggled with alcoholism.

The number of admitted football players was provided by the Players’ Foundation in its financial records. In 2022, the foundation, which was previously known as PFA Charity, spent approximately £4 million on treatment and counselling for 520 retired and current players.

Slightly less than 50% of the athletes were non-retired, while former players and troubled family members of the athletes made up the rest. Around 78 players suffered from substance abuse, while 42 athletes were admitted for gambling addiction.

Almost half of the cases were tied to depression, and several players had to stay in rehabilitation centres for weeks at a time.

Around 40 players were helped, including current female footballers who suffered from issues like anger management, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and psychiatric assessment in addition to the previously listed problems.

Retired English goalkeeper Peter Shilton previously went to Sporting Chance and the NHS to seek treatment for his gambling addiction. He has been particularly open about his problem gambling issues, having struggled with them for over four decades.

While speaking to a British media outlet, the Mail on Sunday, Shilton’s wife, Steffi, commended the efforts of the privately owned clinic and the NHS centres towards addiction treatment. She also asked for a change in how gambling addiction was regarded and encouraged affected parties to seek help.

“They should feel proud if they do decide to reach out, as that is a proactive step towards doing something about their situation,” Shilton said.

“Going forwards, it would be great to see even more help out there for loved ones. Family members can be a key to the success of a player’s recovery. They are the silent victims and are often left traumatised too.”

The problem gambling issues plaguing society have grown bigger since the advent of online casinos and online betting sites, because the accessibility has continued to grow.

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