PFAI fears betting crisis in League of Ireland dressing rooms

Stephen McGuinness says gambling has reached such distressing proportions in League of Ireland dressing rooms, that the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland (PFAI) had to pay for a player’s child’s Christmas presents last year.
PFAI fears betting crisis in League of Ireland dressing rooms

The general secretary of the PFAI wants more support from the FAI and other organisations in tackling the issue.

McGuinness believes it is easier for professional footballers to admit they are alcoholics or suffer mental health problems than to talk about gambling addictions, with many fearing for their careers if they admit gambling issues.

It emerged this week that four players went to the PFAI when they were contacted through social media in an attempt to get them to fix League of Ireland matches, something McGuinness fears could happen more often, with the broadcasting of league games online — in a deal brokered by the FAI with streaming company Trackchamp and betting company BWIN.

McGuinness says betting has become intrinsically linked to the game, but much more needs to be done to raise awareness with players and clubs over the potential damaging effect it can have.

“With mental health and alcoholism, we’ve tackled things well as a society, and people are comfortable to come out and talk about it,” McGuinness said, “but we’re not there yet with gambling, there’s still a stigma there.

“We have two players getting treatment through us right now for this, and some player have had their lives ripped apart because of it.

“When we talk to players who have problems, the first thing they say is ‘if I come out and say I’m gambling, no club will have me’.

“As far as managers are concerned too, gamblers are one of the worst things in the dressing room, they can be taking money off the lads and it affects everyone, it can ruin the trust in a club.”

Cigarette and alcohol sponsorship was phased out in football, however, leading McGuinness to question how gambling — that has a direct link to the game — has been embraced so heavily.

“In the last few years betting has become almost part of the game. If you don’t bet when you’re watching a match on TV, or going to see one — it’s like you’re not part of the game.

“Sport is being used as a vehicle to gambling, and every club in the world seems to have a partnership with a betting company.

“It’s wrong, it’s going too far.”

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