Paul Merson on Gambling: ‘I Lost Millions and My Sanity’

Footballers playing at night
Paul Merson has spoken out about how he is still in the depths of his addiction to gambling.

30-second summary:

  • A former successful footballer, Paul Merson played predominantly for Arsenal and England
  • He has struggled with alcohol, gambling and drug dependency issues for many years
  • The Sky Sports pundit recently revealed that he is still in a bad place with gambling
  • Merson says he has lost millions of pounds during the course of his gambling addiction

Who is Paul Merson?

Paul Merson is notable for his career playing football in the Premier League. He also managed a couple of teams before becoming a popular pundit on Sky Sports for its football coverage.

He played for Arsenal FC for a total of 11 seasons. During his time at the club, he made 327 appearances, scoring 78 goals in the process. Merson subsequently played for a number of different clubs in England.

Merson first played for the England team in 1991. He featured in a total of 21 games, scoring three times during this period.

Battles with addiction

Merson struggled constantly with a number of different addiction issues when he was a player. Most notably, he told a press conference in November 1994 about his struggles with dependence on alcohol, drugs and gambling.

This led to Merson undergoing a three-month rehabilitation program through the English Football Association. In February 1995 he returned to playing for Arsenal. However, he continued to have dependency issues in the following years.

Eventually, Merson went to the Sporting Chance Clinic in 2003 to get further help. This clinic was founded by his former teammate and captain at Arsenal, Tony Adams. He too had had struggles with alcohol in the past.

Unfortunately, Merson’s problems would continue. In 2012 he was involved in an accident on the motorway. He was banned from driving for 14 months as a result, after the police discovered he was under the influence of alcohol at the time.

Both through his autobiography and on television, Merson has been speaking out about his addiction issues, as well as highlighting mental health problems.

Recent revelations

While in recent years Merson has been successful in his punditry career, beneath the surface he still struggles with dependency issues.

During a recent documentary series on ITV called “Harry’s Heroes: The Full English”, Merson spoke about how he has “fallen apart” and is still in the midst of a gambling addiction. He said:  “I’ve just completely lost control again. I’m digging a hole – I can’t get out of it. It’s the worst addiction in the world.”

The 50-year-old spoke publicly on Twitter to thanks people for their support. He tweeted: “Thank you for the supportive tweets, means the world to me. Taking one day at a time but it’s getting better for me. Addiction is the most lonely of places and I’ve had three of the worst types over three decades. Never be afraid to talk, you’re never alone.”

Good Morning Britain appearance

Merson also made an appearance on Good Morning Britain to speak about his issues and to raise awareness of their seriousness. He said his worst addiction is most definitely gambling.

He said: “I’ve just found that when you want to get drunk or high you have to put stuff in your body. If you don’t have the first drink you don’t get drunk. With gambling you don’t have to put anything in, it’s just there. And it just grips you – you are constantly looking at your phone and it just grips you.”

He said he had lost millions of pounds gambling. He would place bets on the most obscure fixtures, such as the U20 basketball matches in Lithuania.

Merson is less concerned about the money he has lost in comparison to the insanity of continuing to engage in such a destructive activity. He gives a fascinating insight into the thought processes a gambling addict has.

He expressed this by saying: “After the bet goes on, you are like, ‘what did I do that for?’ It’s a weird feeling. You search and search to get the bet on, to get all excited, and as soon as you have done it you’re like, ‘I can’t believe what I’ve done’. Then the self-worth comes in and you hate yourself.”

While Merson has been struggling with his addictions for many years, he has also helped a lot of people deal with their own dependency issues by being so public about his own struggles.

He is not afraid to talk about his demons and this will likely help a lot more people realize they have a problem and start resolving their issues.