Breaking News – Gambling addiction is rife at top clubs says Colin Bland

Gambling is ‘absolutely rife’ at some Premier League clubs and remains a ‘major issue’ says the CEO of Sporting Chance.Colin Bland also revealed that the scale of the problem is so great that the charity clinic — which supports current and former professional players suffering from a variety of disorders — is preparing to open a facility purely to deal with gambling addicts.Bland says the problem prevails at certain clubs — and referrals to the clinic are rising each year.‘We have players referred to us who tell us that gambling is “absolutely rife” at their club, while others say it isn’t,’ he said. ‘It is safe to say that problem gambling is a major issue within football.’Sporting Chance was founded in 2000 by former Arsenal defender Tony Adams, after having his own problems with alcoholism. It features a 26-day residential treatment and offers support to those suffering from a wide range of problems.Previous users of the clinic include Joey Barton, Clarke Carlisle and Paul Merson.‘Around 65 per cent of our traffic is depression and anxiety-related issues,’ Bland explained.‘However, 70 per cent of the people who come to us with an addiction have an addiction to gambling.’With numbers of referrals rising each year, there are plans to open a clinic which deals purely with problem gamblers from the UK and beyond in the near future.In the extracts from his autobiography published in Sportsmail this week, former England player Kieron Dyer claimed that heavy gambling had an impact on performances at Euro 2004.However, current England manager Gareth Southgate, a former team-mate whom Dyer said took part in a card school in which no cash was gambled, favours allowing players largely to govern themselves rather than issuing a list of dos and don’ts.Close attention is paid to player welfare and support is offered to those players who may be experiencing problems, in conjunction with the clubs and the Professional Footballers’ Association.While advances in technology have created new opportunities to gamble via smartphones, Bland says that the kinds of card schools Dyer referred to remain in the sport, although he added that certain new online games can grip a club and create competition among players.‘It used to be that online roulette was the drug of choice,’ he explained. ‘However, we have seen instances of a new game coming out and then being played by various players at the same club.’Bland, who added that there have been instances of players using pay day loans and loan sharks to pay off debts, believes those who play the sport are more prone to a gambling addiction.‘It tends to mirror society,’ he said, ‘although research has found that footballers are three times more likely to have a gambling problem than the general public.’He believes more work should be done to help experienced players.‘There is good education at academy level but the adult population is less well-served. Football is a very pressurised environment in which the next match is th