Paul Merson: Football, Gambling And Me

Paul Merson

Paul Merson. Image: BBC

Former Arsenal and England legend Paul Merson is a recently reformed gambling addict. But over the past 30 years, he gambled away a fortune.

In a first-person account BBC documentary, Paul sets out to understand why his life has been so badly blighted by gambling, and explores the relationship between football and gambling at a time when it’s never been more urgent to question the industry’s place in the world of sport.

Paul is now on the path to recovery, but he wants to understand the triggers that have led to his addiction. To do this, he’s undergoing therapy and meeting scientists who have brand new theories in addiction science.

And whilst the government moots the question of whether gambling laws should be changed, Paul wonders if an entire generation of young Brits is at risk of following the same, dangerous path that he trod. Advertising and sponsorship by betting firms has exploded; the industry now spends £1.5 billion a year on advertising, with 80 percent of all gambling marketing spend now online.

“If this film helps just one other person affected by the issue of problem gambling, it’s been worthwhile,” Paul said.

Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Science, added, “Watching England reach the finals of the Euros has been a dream come true. But, as we watch, it’s impossible to escape the constant marketing campaigns from the betting industry. With fans and players at risk of being drawn into addiction, it’s the perfect time for Paul to explore the uncomfortable relationship between football and the gambling industry – and ask if it needs to change.”

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Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.