Whilst successful premier league players definitely don’t seek out red cards on the field,
it seems that off-pitch, red, as well as black cards from a handy deck, betting shop wagers
and casino delights are extremely popular.
With the amount of travel involved in attending away matches,
gambling on the go is the 21st century option for players. With many casino games now available online,
such as a quick spin of roulette at
or a virtual visit to big-name bookmakers for bets on the matches, horses and hounds themselves,
a significant number of premier leaguers over the years have found gambling to be as much a part
of their beautiful game as being on the pitch itself.
Matthew Etherington, who’s enjoyed premier league success with Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke
and West Ham is reputed to have spent well over £1 million through racing bets on both
horses and greyhounds, as well as in poker games.
Former Man United and Newcastle United winger Keith Gillespie was declared bankrupt in
2010 following years of gambling at bookmakers, including a spree he dubs “Black Friday”
which cost him £47,000.
Michael Chopra is another player who was at the top of his game on the field, but struggling
with runs of poor luck in daily betting. He is reported to have spent over £2 million gambling
during his football career.
Dominic Matteo of Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United and Liverpool confessed to reporters that,
despite the excitement he provided to football fans whilst on the pitch, when he wasn’t playing
it was boredom which sparked his initial interest in gambling. Matteo made ready use of mobile
technology for easy access to a range of gambling methods, including his favoured horse racing.
Paul Merson, a respected former Arsenal and England player, also favoured gambling as an
off-pitch past-time, reportedly spending up to £30,000 a time during betting sprees.
David Bentley, of Arsenal, Blackburn and Tottenham Hotspur fame has also revealed that
although he’s still young at under 30, he has been habitually gambling since he has been
earning a premier league wage. He is reported to have been spending massive sums during
sprees where he’s placed up to 100 bets a day.
Of course, as Bentley’s experience shows, it’s that premier league wage which is often the
starting point for players’ and their relationships with gambling. Whether it’s through
investing large amounts into owning racehorses, as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen have been
reported as doing, by filling time on journeys or stints away from home with a visit to
online casinos and bookmakers, to having inter-team card schools, it seems that a significant
number of players are aiming for big wins off the pitch as much as on them!