The fear of losing his wife Steph helped Peter Shilton beat his gambling addiction.
The former England goalkeeper, 70, has described how it took him three months to conquer the problem five years ago, and that he no longer gambles at all.
He spoke of how it is especially “easy” for footballers to develop a gambling habit, something which remains the case with the Professional Footballers’ Association reporting that 15 per cent of its members who accessed counselling services in 2019 presented with a gambling addiction.
Speaking about how he began to overcome the problem, Shilton told Good Morning Britain: “I had had a particularly bad weekend gambling.
“I knew Steph knew and I didn’t want to lose Steph and I knew she wasn’t happy. I thought to myself, ‘What are you doing, you’ve never won at gambling’. Every gambler has a win but you always give it back as you want to gamble.
“I had an addiction… Football in particular is an easy target. Because you do have a lot of spare time on your hands when you finish training.
“You have to rest, so you can sit there and you get a bit bored and you get a bit of a high. If you had an afternoon free, you would spend most of the afternoon (gambling). I was really (interested in) horse racing. I loved horse racing, I even owned horses.”
Shilton, who holds the England caps record with 125 senior appearances for his country, suffered well-documented financial issues as a result of his gambling addiction, and his wife Steph said his behaviour meant she found herself constantly checking up on him.
“It was very difficult for me. Being with someone so famous as well, I couldn’t go to his GP or go to his bank manager. It’s very difficult for a loved one,” she said.
“So I became an investigator really, I thought I need to find out how bad this really is… I was trying to open his bank statements to see. You have to be prepared for a few shocks.”
Football’s relationship with gambling has been in the spotlight recently after it emerged that some FA Cup ties could only be viewed by people who had active accounts with a betting company under a deal struck by the Football Association in 2017.
The arrangement jarred with the FA’s ‘Heads Up’ mental health awareness campaign which it promoted around the third-round ties. The betting companies agreed to waive exclusivity and the FA is in discussions with its broadcast partners on the provision of a free stream for the affected fourth-round match – QPR v Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.