Michael Chopra believes more needs to be done by football authorities to prevent players following his path to gambling addiction as the former striker urged anyone struggling to seek help this Christmas.
The 36-year-old’s career took him from his hometown club Newcastle to the likes of Cardiff, Sunderland and Ipswich, along with pitstops in India and Scotland.
Chopra spent much of his playing days fighting a gambling addiction that led him to spend time with the Sporting Chance clinic set-up by Tony Adams, who earlier this year said football is dealing with a gambling “epidemic”.
The betting industry is inextricably linked with sport and the former Premier League striker believes work needs to be done to help the players of tomorrow.
“No, I don’t think there’s enough help,” he told the PA news agency. “Now, how can you help players when you have – look, I’m just guessing – probably 50 per cent of the Premier League clubs are all sponsored by gambling companies?
“You watch a football match on Sky, BT, whatever, during half-time what comes on first straightaway? It’s a gambling ad. Who’s going to score the next goal? Now, how can that help footballers? It’s impossible.
“Now I know the FA are trying to put a big clampdown saying that professional footballers are not allowed to bet on any football at all.
“But, look, I know myself, I know other players still bet. They get somebody else to do it, so you can’t stop it. It’s impossible.
“Now the only way it’s going to stop is if people go into clubs and they’re talking to the younger generation because it’s the younger generation that is the next set of kids that are going to be seeing this. They’re the ones that are going to have the problem.
“Yeah, you’ve got older players that have got problems but we’ve got to look at the next generation of kids because if you stop the next generation then it’ll gradually start reducing the amount of footballers and sportsmen that are gambling.
“But, look, I don’t think enough is getting done. You try and stop the gambling but the main thing for me is all the sponsorship boards and all the betting companies are splashed all over the football shirts.”
Chopra has now retired and splits his time between Amsterdam and Jakarta, where he is working on a football academy aimed at developing Indonesian talent.
The 36-year-old continues to take his battle against gambling addiction “day by day” and is supporting the TalkBanStop campaign, launched by GamCare, Gamban and Gamstop to offer tools and support to help people kickstart their recovery.
“I just think people have to be strong,” Chopra said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel – I’ve proved it, other people have proved it.
“Now this is a great campaign, the TalkBanStop campaign. It’s not hard now (to get support). It’s out there.
“People can pick up the phone to a national hotline number. You can call it, you can speak to people, you’ve got self-exclusion, you’ve got software.
“And the most important thing is if you have a problem you’ve got to speak them out because, at the end of the day, everybody’s here to help you.
“Everybody that has addictions needs help and people don’t realise what people have problems, when people have problems.
“Look, don’t be afraid. There’s nothing to be afraid about because the end of the day there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
To find out more, visit www.talkbanstop.com