Former Arsenal and England legend Paul Merson sets out to understand why his life has been so blighted by gambling, and asks whether enough is being done to prevent many more young men following in his footsteps.
Over the past thirty-five years, former Arsenal and England legend Paul Merson has gambled away a fortune. In this first-person account, 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.
Now on the path to recovery he wants to understand what caused his addiction. Could it be the way his brain is wired, his environment, or both. Paul sets out to meet old team mates, scientists and psychologists to see if he can get close to finding the answer.
Paul starts by meeting old Arsenal team mate, Wes? Reid. When they received their first pay cheques as Arsenal trainees, Paul and Wes went to the bookies and Paul lost his entire week’s wages in fifteen minutes, which kicked off a thirty five year obsession with gambling.
We see him meet up with a group of former professional footballers, Keith Gillespie (Newcastle and Northern Ireland), John Hartson (Arsenal and Wales), Scott Davies (Reading) who between them, caught up in gambling addiction, lost over £15 million.
Paul meets Dr David Erritzoe, a consultant psychiatrist working at Imperial College London. David and his team have embarked on a ground-breaking piece of research in a bid to map the brain, to try and pinpoint the neurobiological basis of gambling addiction and develop new treatments.
Matt Zarb-Cousins from pressure group Clean Up Gambling, gives Paul insight into how the gambling industry has changed and how sophisticated technology is used to gather information about customers. Paul also meets the families of three men who took their own lives as a result of gambling. They are part of charity support group, Gambling with Lives which is demanding tougher regulation across the industry.
Whilst the government moots the question of whether gambling laws should be reformed to protect those addicted to gambling, 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 in recent years, with more than a third of English premiership clubs promoting gambling companies on their shirts.
This poignant, noisy and necessary film illuminates the nation’s problem with gambling addiction through the prism of its favourite sport and through the eyes of one of its best-known and much-loved players.