A LEEDS amateur football club is spreading the word about the dangers of gambling addiction, after losing one of their own players in a tragic gambling-related death.
Headingley AFC is keeping alive the name of their former team mate Lewis Keogh, who died in 2013, after he kept his habit a secret from everyone who knew him, until he suddenly and shockingly took his own life at the age of 34.
Heartbreakingly, his suicide note included the words ‘addiction is cruel’.
There is an estimated 10,000 gambling addicts in Leeds alone, and many more at risk from developing an addiction.
And as a new NHS National Gambling Clinic is set to open in Leeds - players at Lewis’ old club are determined to tackle the gambling
crisis - which claims one life a day in Britain.
READ MORE: New project to tackle male suicide in Leeds: “I stepped out in front of the number 13 bus that day wanting to end my life”
Callum Butcher, chairman of Headingley AFC, said: “Earlier in 2019 we made national news when we became the first club to be sponsored by an
“The exposure this initiative received since has exceeded our expectations and we are now determined to continue to raise awareness
of the problems associated with gambling, not just in Leeds but across the UK.
"Lewis encapsulated the club's ethos perfectly and the devastation felt when he took his own life, shocked our club to the core.
“We miss him terribly but by continuing to organise events like this, we celebrate everything that he stood for."
There is an estimated 430,000 gambling addicts in the UK today, with a further 2 million at risk.
Joe Ward, captain of Headingley AFC, added: “We want to help spread the message about the incredible damage that gambling addiction is doing to families and the lack of action that we feel is being taken to protect vulnerable young people."
The Gambling with Lives charity is supported by Lewis’s parents Peter and Sadie, who have spoken about their lasting grief – and their fight to make sure no other family suffers the same terrible loss.
Previously Lewis’s father Peter told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The more we do, the more we realise that we can only scratch the surface.
“This nation of ours is about to be overcome. The amount of people who get involved in gambling, and how it is impacting on families – I see it day in, day out.
“It’s a huge crisis waiting to happen to all of us and I don’t think I am scaremongering in the slightest when I say that.”
It was not until after Lewis died that Peter and Sadie discovered that he had run up debts of £50,000 through credit cards and bank loans as he fed an addiction that had held him in its grip for six or seven years.
He is thought to have made occasional visits to a casino but, in the main, gambled on internet roulette and poker games.
Headingley’s opponents in the friendly match Blackbird Rovers lost a player of their own to gambling addiction and it was this player - Jack Ritchie - whose parents set up Gambling With Lives.
Liz and Charles Ritchie are now making it their mission to make the government and gambling companies accountable for gambling-related deaths.
Headingley AFC has started pre-season training for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Over the coming months they will be arranging friendly fixtures with other clubs in the West Yorkshire area as they aim to continue to spread the gambling awareness message.
FACTFILE: Help with gambling
Charity Gambling with Lives states: No one knows how many deaths are related to gambling each year; but research indicates that are between
250 and 650 gambling related suicides every year in the UK, a minimum of one every working day.
The charity aims to: - Support families who have been bereaved by gambling related suicides
- Raise awareness amongst gamblers, their families and friends, and health professionals of the dangerous effects of gambling on mental health and the high suicide risk
More details www.gamblingwithlives.org
In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GamCare has a telephone helpline 0808 8020 133 or via web chat at www.gamcare.org.uk