Graham Gooch, the former England captain and batsman, is funding a gambling education programme which is being delivered to current county cricketers by the Professional Cricketers’ Association and Paul Buck, Chief Executive of EPIC Risk Management.
Gooch has donated £50,000 from his Graham Gooch Scholarship, which was established 16 years ago, to the PCA Legacy Year Appeal, which has been set up as a major fund-raising initiative to mark the PCA’s 50th Anniversary.
Gooch requested that his generous donation should be used to educate cricketers about the dangers of becoming addicted to gambling.
Buck is now visiting all 18 first-class counties telling players his own harrowing story and spoke to the Worcestershire CCC playing and coaching staff this week at New Road.
From placing a winning £10 each-way bet on a horse in Leeds in1994, Buck ended up owning racehorses himself but he hid his gambling addiction from his family and friends.
The secret addiction finally became public after Buck, a bank manager, stole more than £400,000, then attempted to take his own life.
He was jailed for two years and eight months in 2012 after he confessed to stealing money to fund his gambling.
Gooch said: “There are a lot of dangers in the world for young people now and I am particularly interested in helping out with the education of young cricketers with all the worries and concerns of online gambling and getting into bad habits.
“If we can educate people, make them aware of the pitfalls and get insight from people who have been down that route and fallen foul then, hopefully, they can be warned about the potential dangers.
“Personally I have never been a gambler but I do like going to a horse racing track and having a bet there. I’ve also hosted Ladbrokes in hospitality boxes at Test Matches so I don’t have any issues with gambling.
“But sportsmen, in particular, do find themselves with time on their hands. When I played people would go to a betting shop if they wanted to have a flutter. Now the temptation to bet online is great. In the social media world it’s very easy to get into that.
“You have to be very careful that it doesn’t consume you and cause major problems for you and your family down the line.”
Buck’s county sessions form part of the PCA’s continuing addictive behaviour programme through the pioneering Mind Matters series which includes videos with Craig Spearman, the former Gloucestershire and New Zealand batsman, on his gambling addiction and Phil Mawer, a former compulsive gambler, whose wife drank herself to death as a consequence of his habit.
PCA chairman and Worcestershire opener Daryl Mitchell said: “Paul’s session was a real eye-opener. It’s an amazing story but an extreme one, going from having a very high-powered job earning lots of money to a prison cell. It’s a shocking story, but the way Paul put it across was fantastic.
“It’s all about creating awareness. Hopefully it’s prevention rather than cure and will stop players across the country from falling into the pitfalls of gambling.
“It’s not just about looking at yourself but also looking out for your team mates. As cricketers we spend a lot of time together in dressing rooms and hotels up and down the country.
"It’s really important that we all look out for each other. If we see any concerning habits we need to speak up and look after each other as best we can.”
Support for PCA members – past and present county cricketers – is available through the PCA’s network of Personal Development and Welfare Managers and a 24 hour confidential helpline on 08444 8006873.
The helpline is provided by Cognacity whose team includes Dr Filipo Passetti, an expert in gambling addiction.