breaking point | 

England legend Peter Shilton opens up on the depth of his gambling addiction

Shilton was a gambling addict for more than four decades, with the problem reaching breaking point after his record breaking football career came to an end.

Goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton.© PA

Peter Shilton was the keeper beaten by Diego Maradona's famous 'Hand of God goal' at the 1986 World Cup

Kevin PalmerSunday World

ENGLAND legend Peter Shilton has revealed he blew a “many millions” in a gambling addiction that pushed him to the brink of destruction.

With his supportive partner Steph sitting next to him for our exclusive Sunday World interview, the 73-year-old football great reflected on a habit that left him broken when he placed his last bet eight years ago.

Shilton was a gambling addict for more than four decades, with the problem reaching breaking point after his record breaking football career came to an end.

"I've lost millions over the years," confessed Shilton, who is backing the GambleAware campaign.

"You can't put a number on it because I didn't keep track of how much I was losing down the years, but you look back now and over 45 years I lost a lot of money.

"If you are earning well as a footballer, it feeds the habit. You think more money is coming in so I will have a bet.

"The day I stopped was the best day of my life. It was the day I realised I was never going to win, but it is not easy to get to that point.

"My wife Steph was so important to help me get my life back and the first step is admitted you have got a problem.

"It is an addiction, you want more and more. The danger now is the ease you can bet and that's why the problem has grown.

"We all have a casino in our pockets with mobile phones these days. I used to have to phone up to place a bet, but it's so much easier now and we can see the devastation it can cause.

"Eventually, you realise you will never beat the bookies and I had a long road to go down before I got to that point.

"You can start off with a few quid on a match and if you have a win, then you want more.

"When you then get on a losing streak, as all gamblers do, you suddenly get to a point where you have lost more than you can afford.

“For years, I didn’t believe I had a problem. In my eyes, it was a release for me when I was playing football, but it took hold of me when I finished.

"I had too much time on my hands and I was betting more and more

"That's what can happen. It creeps up on you, when you don't realise how bad it is getting.”

Peter Shilton was the keeper beaten by Diego Maradona's famous 'Hand of God goal' at the 1986 World Cup

Shilton credits his wife Steph for helping him to escape from his gambling hell and she told us that the World Cup is a captive audience for gambling additions to thrive.

"We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis and people might turn to gambling in the hope it offers a quick fix,” Steph told us.

"That is never the solution and we want to appeal to people to watch the World Cup and don’t get too fixated on the gambling around the games.

"We are seeing more and more people getting into debt gambling and the the mental health issues around those who are sucked into betting at a high level is horrible to see.”

Shilton's addiction was focused on horse racing and while he is urging people to appreciate the danger of gambling, he is not advocating a total ban.

"Gambling is part of life and I'm not saying it should be banned, but these free bets and pop up adverts on the TV mean it is in your face all the time,” he added.

"If you like a little flutter now and again, no one had a problem with that, but there is an every increasing number of people who can't control it and get addicted.

“Steph and I would like to see an end to betting adverts on shirts in football and the free bet offers because it feels like it’s in your face all the time when you are watching at game.”

Anyone concerned about their gambling, or that of a loved one, can visit BeGambleAware.org.

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