Peter Shilton has revealed he spent 45 years as a gambling addict.
The former goalkeeper, and England’s most capped male player, said that it took losing tens of thousands of pounds before he was able to stop.
“I’ve won at most things in my life, in terms of my career, but I’ve never won at gambling,” the 70-year-old told the Daily Mail.
Shilton said online gambling caused his gambling addiction to worsen and that he has decided to speak out after revelations about football’s close ties to betting firms – 27 of England’s top 44 clubs now having a gambling company for their shirt sponsor.
He said his recovery started after his wife Steph confronted him with bank statements showing his losses. He told her: “I’m losing, and I’m worried I’m going to lose you.”
Shilton said online gambling is “frightening” and he is working with the Government to raise awareness of associated issues including mental health problems.
He revealed that he bet on horse racing during his football career, even acting as a bookie for his England teammates.
But his addiction worsened when he stared to gamble online, sometimes doing so until the early hours of the morning.
Shilton said he was such a regular gambler that he was sent Christmas hampers by bookmakers.
His wife once begged a gambling company to cancel his account, he said, but they refused.
“I didn’t realise I was an addict until I finally stopped. When I was working I was always ultra-professional and nothing would interfere with the football.
“But when you’re a footballer you have a lot of spare time on your hands after training. It’s easy to sit around and gamble,” Shilton said.
Shilton finally kicked his addiction to gambling in 2015.
Last week he and his wife met with sports minister Nigel Adams and Arts Minister Helen Whately to discuss helping to tackle the menace of problem gambling.
They are also working with the charity Gambling with Lives, which was set up by the bereaved parents of gamblers.