Betting on football is an extremely popular pastime for many, many people. And footballers are people too, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to know that many of them also love to gamble.
For better or worse, and legally or otherwise, here are a number of footballers who enjoy a good gamble.
Ignorance nor boredom were effective excuses for a hotel room gambling spree that cost former Spurs winger Andros Townsend £18,000 and four months of his career in 2013.
Not knowing the rules about gambling as a player cost Andros Townsend £18,000 and four months of his career
To The Sun, Townsend explained: “I was bored and there were TV ads promoting bets you could have on the matches I was watching. So I downloaded the phone app and started having small wagers to make watching games as a neutral fun.”
Not knowing he was doing anything wrong (the FA prohibits betting on any competition your club or any club you were loaned to that season played in), the incident also saw Townsend withdraw from that year’s Under-21 European Championship.
Scottish defender Dominic Matteo is considered a cult hero at Leeds United for a number of reasons, some being the instrumental part he played in Leeds’ run to the 2000-01 Champions League semis and his goal against Milan at the San Siro in the group stage that saw the Whites through to the next round that campaign.
So revered by the club he was, the front office decided to make him an official club ambassador after he retired in 2009. What his appointers probably didn’t know at the time was that Matteo had over £1 million in gambling debt to his name, sometimes betting as much as £200,000 on a single horse.
Sunderland survived their Premier League survival in the penultimate match of the 2012-13 season, thanks in part to defender Phil Bardsley’s goal that helped the Black Cats draw with Southampton. To celebrate, Bardsley commemorated the occasion apparently the only way he knew how: by going out gambling and sprawling out on the casino’s floor while being covered in £50 notes.
Not everyone found Phil Bardsley’s way of celebrating Sunderland’s survival appropriate
Although Bardsley didn’t technically break any team rules, manager Paolo Di Canio was none too pleased at the photos that circulated in the papers the next day. He ended up suspending the Scottish defender for the final match against Spurs and fining him (along with his team-mate accomplices).
Paul Merson might seem like a chipper face during Sky broadcasts, but he didn’t make it to the broadcast booth without several trips to rock bottom first. During his playing career with Arsenal, the former English international was admitted to rehab facility in the middle of the 1994-95 season to get his gambling, cocaine, and alcohol addictions under control.
Almost 10 years later as player-manager for Walsall, Merson again had mid-season bouts with drinking and gambling that forced him to check into a rehab facility. Thankfully, Merson seems to be in a better place but has estimated that he’s lost over £7 million gambling in his lifetime, including a £300,000 home after he failed to pay his mortgage.
After decades of match-fixing scandals and tales of corruption, Italian football and gambling have become synonymous with one another. The love of the gamble permeates even through to the Italian game’s biggest stars, like Gigi Buffon.
Italian legend Gigi Buffon has made no attempts to hide his love of gambling
Buffon has been investigated on illegal gambling allegations on two separate occasions, once in 2006 before the World Cup and again in 2012 in regards to over €1.5 million in illegal wagers he made the year prior. The great keeper was cleared on all of these charges, and for a while even served as a brand ambassador for PokerStars.
The thrill of online gambling can be such a rush for some people that they don’t know where to draw the line. That’s certainly the case with longtime Doncaster midfielder James Coppinger, who in 2013 was charged on allegations that he and other footballers had fixed and bet on nine different horse races between 2010 and 2011.
Just betting on horses wasn’t enough James Coppinger; he needed to make it so he knew he would win
Despite denying the charges, Coppinger was given a three-year ban by the British Horseracing Authority, prohibiting him from dealing with any registered racing individuals (including bookies).