Former Leeds United loanee Andros Townsend reflects on gambling past

FORMER Leeds United loanee Andros Townsend has opened up on his former gambling addiction which he says was stopped by a charge from the FA.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 11:55 am
BACK FROM HIS TROUBLES: Andros Townsend in action for Leeds United challenging Arsenal's Thierry Henry during the third round FA Cup clash between the Whites and the Gunners in January 2012. Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images.

Former England international Townsend joined Leeds on loan on the first day of January in 2012 with the winger going on to make six Championship appearances for the Whites - scoring once - as well one outing in FA Cup tie at Arsenal.

But speaking in an open and honest article on the The Players’ Tribune, Townsend reflected on a gambling addiction that once led to him losing £46,000 in one night lying in bed on a Wednesday night in Blackpool whilst on loan at Birmingham City.

The Tottenham academy graduate explained how a mixture of an addictive personality and boredom saw him download a betting app during one of his nine loan spells away from Spurs and it soon spiralled out of control.

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Townsend, who has 13 England caps, was fined in June 2013 by the Football Association and suspended for four months for breaching betting regulations and it proved a turning point in his career.

“It all started with boredom, if I’m being honest,” said Crystal Palace winger Townsend.

"I can remember exactly where I was when I had my first bet. I was bored in a random hotel room the night before a match, and I saw an ad on the telly for an app with a free bet. I downloaded the app and had a little bet to pass the time.

"Within a few months, I was out of control. It’s just my personality. Most people can bet £10 at the weekend and then not think about it again.

"But everything I do consumes me completely. If you beat me at FIFA, I’m going to play FIFA nonstop until I can come back and smash you. If you beat me at table tennis or darts, it’s all I’m going to do with my free time for a month, until I can come back and smash you. I need to be good at everything I do.

"It was the same with gambling, except it doesn’t work like that. I just kept losing. I kept trying to dig myself out of the hole.

"Then, in the blink of an eye, I’m completely addicted. I remember when I was at Birmingham, it was the night before our playoff semi-final game. I was lying in bed, trying to get my rest. This was the biggest match of our season, and I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept checking my phone, placing more bets. That night, I lost £46,000 on a single match.

"I think I was on about £3,000 a week at the time.

"That was rock bottom for me. Because you feel absolutely empty. You’re supposed to be focused on football, the thing that you love, and the only thing you can think of is, How can I get my money back?”

"There was a time when I was at Leeds when I was supposed to do a player appearance with some fans, and I’d just lost a big bet. I can’t even remember the amount. But I was so empty that all I could do was shut my phone off and crawl into bed. I was depressed. I couldn’t focus. I lost the motivation to do anything.

"It didn’t stop until I got caught. And thank God that I got caught. When I was charged by the FA and facing a ban from football, it snapped me back to reality.

"I was facing a 12-month ban, and I really feared for my whole career. When the thing that you love in life can be taken away from you, it changes your perspective. I’m so thankful that the FA realised there wasn’t anything malicious going on, and that I was just a stupid kid who made a mistake.

"They suspended most of the sentence, and I went to get counselling for my gambling addiction.

"And that not only saved my football career, it also probably saved me as a human being, because it opened me up to the possibility that actually talking to somebody about what I was going through was OK."