On Monday 11th October, Paul Mersons new film ‘Paul Merson: Football, Gambling and Me’ was aired on BBC One.

In this film, Paul talks very openly about his gambling addiction and states that in his lifetime has lost over £7 million due to the addiction. The film is Pauls journey to understanding where his compulsion comes from as well as exploring the reasoning behind why footballers might be more prone to a gambling addiction compared to others. If you missed the opportunity to watch this film, it is still available to watch on demand on BBC iPlayer.

Footballers and gambling addictions

Paul Merson had a 21-year career in professional football, playing for teams such as Arsenal, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. He suggests that the nature of a footballers lifestyle makes them more susceptible to having a problem with gambling. He states that he used to dread evening matches as he knew he would spend the whole day gambling in his hotel room and by the time kick off at 7:45pm came around, he would be half asleep.

During the film, he met up with other former footballers who are recovering from a gambling addiction who share their story also. Between the 3 of them, Merson, John Hartson and Scott Davies, they have lost more than £15 million to gambling.

Triggers to Mersons addiction

The films shows Paul visiting different doctors in order to investigate into the reason his brain works in the way that it does. A consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College London, Dr David Erritzoe, worked with a research team to map his brain and pinpoint the neurobiological basis of Pauls gambling addiction.

From this, they uncovered that Pauls brain responds actively to images of gambling over images of family or food, for example. He explains that he finds the results scary and that the disease has re-wired his brain.

Every individuals triggers can be different however, Merson is led to believe that after the research was carried out, gambling adverts are his triggers. He suggested that now he knows how adverts can affect him, when they come on, he turns them off.

The purpose behind the film

Through the process of creating the film, Merson suggests that he has learnt about a lot about his addiction and that it has been helpful. However, he stated “if one person watches it and says ‘I need help’ that would be a major success story for me. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

If you believe you, or someone you know if suffering from a gambling addiction, New Leaf Recovery are here to help. We are a private, residential rehabilitation centre based in Birmingham. We offer recovery programmes for many types of addictions, including gambling addictions.

You are not alone! We are here for you! Reach out to us today by calling 0300 999 0330, or by filling out our online contact form.