Preview: Paul Merson: Football, Gambling and Me

Paul Merson
Paul Merson opens up about his issues, and challenges the home that gambling has made in football. Photo: BBC

In this down-to-earth and very eye-opening documentary, former Arsenal and England player Paul Merson reveals his 30+ year gambling addiction. He sets out to understand just why the practice has taken over his life, and to question the industry’s place in sport.

On the road to recovery, he wants to understand what caused the problem; is it the way his brain is wired, his environment, or both? He starts by meeting former Arsenal teammate Wes Reid. When they received their first pay cheques as trainees, the pair went to the bookies, and Paul lost his entire week’s wages in 15 minutes, kicking off a 35-year struggle.

He meets fellow footballers that have gambled away millions, and visits families of three men who lost their lives to it. At Imperial College London, he talks to Dr David Erritzoe, whose team of researchers are trying to pinpoint the neurobiological basis for addiction.

Should new gambling laws be introduced and reformed to protect those with addictions? Paul wonders if an entire generation of young Brits are at risk of following his path. Advertising from betting firms has blown up recently, with more than a third of Premier League clubs promoting gambling companies on their shirts.

Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me – Monday at 9pm on BBC One