Former Manchester United, Newcastle United, and Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie recently featured on Sportsound Meets, a podcast by BBC Radio Ulster. The football legend talked about the life choices which shaped his career, his struggles with gambling, and how he got where he is now.
It Was a Quick Downwards Spiral
Gillespie’s first contact with gambling happened when he was 16-17 years old, playing for Manchester United’s youth team. A fellow teammate took him to the bookies and quickly got him hooked. By the time he was 19, he was a rising star for Newcastle United. Gillespie admitted that living alone at a hotel in an unfamiliar city got unbearably tedious. Visiting the local bookmakers helped pass the time and get some much-needed entertainment.
The football legend admits that he has an addictive personality, which worsened his gambling problems. Gillespie bet on horses, dogs, and football and quickly got addicted to the rush of adrenaline after a win. Soon, gambling had become a daily habit. The introduction of telephone betting is when things really spiraled out of control. On a day he dubbed “Black Friday” in 1995, Gillespie lost £47,000. He describes it as one of the worst moments of his life.
There is a lot of embarrassment attached to losing this sort of money.Keith Gillespie
Despite the colossal losses, Gillespie did not stop. Instead of accepting his losses, he tried to win some back but only lost a further £15,000. He was down £62,000 in two days, which is an astronomical amount for the time. Gillespie’s gambling woes finally came to light. Soon after, he lost another £52,000 and made headlines in newspapers.
It was probably a good thing for me because while I did continue to gamble after that, it did slow me down for a bit.Keith Gillespie
Gillespie was declared legally bankrupt on 1 October 2010 by the Belfast High Court. His football career ended soon after in 2013.
Gillespie Spoke Out against Gambling Sponsorships
The 86 international caps winner admitted that he was not a typical recovery story. He never sought professional help and slowly came to terms with his addiction on his own after he married and had kids.
I just came to a point where you can’t keep doing this.Keith Gillespie
Gillespie is now involved in the agency side of football and supports Gambling with Lives – a charity for people with gambling problems that call for stricter gambling regulations.
During the podcast, the football veteran spoke in favor of the proposed ban of gambling advertisements on player shirts. He stated that the situation was worse than ever, and the gambling industry could get away with things unimaginable a couple of decades ago.
There is no way you are going to eliminate gambling, but I think… it shouldn’t be involved in the sport that way.Keith Gillespie
The UK gambling regulator has urged Premier League teams to drop their sponsorships from gambling companies. Roughly half of the top-20 teams during last season had a gambling logo on their shirts. The Premier League expressed willingness to cooperate with the DCMS and phase out gambling sponsors within three years.