Gambling in rugby: a Rugby World investigation

Gambling in rugby: a Rugby World investigation Facing up to gambling addiction “I SAT on the bridge waiting for the next train, just psyching myself up to jump in front of it,” Mark Potter remembers. Right on the edge. This was a young man at his lowest ebb. A compulsive gambler finally realising how strong the stranglehold of addiction was around his neck and thinking that all he could do was end it all. But he couldn’t do it. Today Potter – now a retired second-row who earned decent if not spectacular money playing in the National Leagues and semi-pro in Ireland – works alongside EPIC Risk Management, a company that specialises in assessing the risk of problem gambling for professional organisations and setting up support networks for those within it affected by addiction. They have worked with the Rugby Players Association (RPA) to roll out their largest ever education programme, in a move everyone hopes will provide clubs, academies, players and management with as much information about addiction as possible, as well as aid professionals in the game who may previously have hidden from their own gambling problems. Potter can now talk calmly about all the wrong he had done and how close he came to jumping, but the proud member of Liverpool St Helens RFC wasn’t always renowned for his control. “I always knew I had a problem,” says the 35-year-old father of three. “Ever since my late teens I’d put money on. I was playing at a reasonable level of rugby and making quite good money – I knew I’d never play for England, but I was playing for enjoyment and I was playing to make money. I had built up a big debt (around £20,000) by my mid twenties and then I met my wife. “She’s Irish and together we moved over after I got an offer to play out there. I thought it was all good. I was keen. But then I started up again. Things got bad.” Potter went to great lengths to cover up his problems while the family were in Ireland, telling his wife all was well as the bills went unpaid and he went on searching for the buzz of another big win. He looks back on a time when he thought it was acceptable to rip off his own rugby club to pay his debts. But it’s impossible to hide forever. His wife found out and he moved back to England on his own, ashamed. The problem did not go away. He continues: “It doesn’t matter if you’re on £100k a week or £100. You will spend whatever’s reflective of your income, whatever you’ve got. Eventually I ran out of people to borrow money from. There came the point when I swiped some of my kids’ stuff and sold it, so I could gamble. That was the end of the road. I had to hold my hand up.” That is when the troubled lock headed for the train tracks. When … Continue reading Gambling in rugby: a Rugby World investigation