A FORMER Hearts star is calling on the Scottish Government to end betting sponsorship of football to help beat an “epidemic” of gambling addiction among players.
Kevin Twaddle, who lost more than £1 million through his own gambling habit while he was a player, now gives counselling to footballers struggling with the problem.
And he described how one desperate player had nearly jumped from the Forth Road Bridge because if his addiction.
Twaddle, whose career also included playing for Motherwell and St Johnstone, said Scotland should follow the example of the English FA, which ended its £4 million a year sponsorship deal with Ladbroke’s.
He said: “Gambling is causing carnage in Scottish football. A lot of players are struggling massively with major gambling problems. There’s an epidemic.
“I was talking to a boy earlier this month who was totally and utterly broken and had thought about jumping off the Forth Road Bridge. He’d actually driven there to do it.
“He had obviously gone there to commit suicide but couldn’t follow through, thank God.
“But even just to contemplate it is bad enough. He thought it was his only way out but he’s now seeking help and hopefully can turn his life around.”
There are strict rules against footballers betting on matches, but a series of controversies has seen top names disciplined for breaching the ban.
Twaddle said: “To be able to bet on the first corner, the first throw-in, the first booking - it’s no wonder people get themselves in a whole lot of bother.
“I would have been jailed if I was still playing - without a shadow of a doubt.
“It’s hypocritical that Scottish football is run by gambling companies.
“The SFA and SPFL should be doing the exact same as the FA. And if Scottish football isn’t prepared to sort this out, then Holyrood should step in.”
The SFA has a £1m-a-year deal with William Hill to sponsor the Scottish Cup until 2019.
Ladbrokes extended their £2m-a-year deal with the SPFL in April and the League Cup has been renamed the Betfred Cup in a £1m-plus three-year contract.
Former First Minister Henry McLeish has also urged Scottish football to drop gambling sponsorship.
He said: “It may take a bit of time but I think an assertion from Scottish football saying, ‘We want to move on to different kinds of sponsorship’ would be an enormous boost for the game.”
The SFA has insisted it has no plans to reconsider its commercial relationship with betting companies despite the FA’s move.
It said the sponsorship arrangement had injected millions of pounds into the game for the benefit of the whole of Scottish football.
The SPFL said has said it is “very happy” with its sponsorship deals and “grateful” for the support of the firms involved.