Thursday, June 13, 2024

Merson says players addicted to gambling need help rather than lengthy bans

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FORMER Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson has criticised authorities for handing out long bans to Ivan Toney and Sandro Tonali and says gambling is still an “under-estimated” addiction that is “ravaging” football.

Merson has often opened up on the extent of his career-long problem with gambling, and how it was an addiction that drove him to contemplate suicide.

He told the BBC’s Sacked in the Morning podcast that gambling remains a huge threat to the modern game and that players like Toney and Tonali, who were banned for eight and 10 months respectively for betting breaches, deserved to be treated with more understanding.

“People have no respect for the gambling addiction — we’ve seen that with the bans of Sandro Tonali at Newcastle and Ivan Toney at Brentford,” Merson said.

“To give people 10-month bans for an addiction that is ravaging football, with sponsorships all over the shirts — they needed help and I don’t think ‘help’ is giving them 10-month bans.

“We underestimate this addiction. We need to show it some respect and not, ‘Oh, show a bit of will-power.’ I would say to the people who make these rules up and ban people: ‘Next time you get diarrhoea, try to stop that with will-power’.”

Merson, 55, believes that one of the major problems with gambling is the difficulty in identifying or addressing any potential issues.

“It’s big in football, it’s a hidden addiction because it’s a hard one for managers to get hold of,” he added.

“It’s easy to hide. If a player comes in who’s been out drinking until four o’clock in the morning, you know. But if they drop £200 grand at a casino or betting, you never know until it’s too late.”

Toney recently returned after serving an eight-month ban for 232 breaches of betting rules. Tonali remains suspended, with his 10-month ban due to end in August.

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