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Ex-Scotland manager: ‘The shame and lies of gambling convinced me to finally stop’

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Former Scotland manager Craig Levein has shared how he lied to his wife after gambling away his wages.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sacked in the Morning podcast, co-host Levein, who also continues to manage at St Johnstone, explained that betting had “always been a part of my life” as his father took him to bookmakers from about five years old.

But he said his problems “changed enormously” with the growth of online gambling, because he could hide his problem more easily and no-one could know how much money he was losing.

‘Shame’

Levein said he could convince himself not to go into the bookmakers “because people are in there and they’re talking, and they say, oh he’s spent 100 quid, or he’s spent this or did that”, but on the phone “you had access to everything that you would have had”.

He explained: “I’d tell my missus, ‘Oh, I didn’t get paid this week,’ or something like that, and that then brings the shame.

“And it’s the shame for me that eventually got me to stop altogether. The bigger the hole you dig, the worse it gets. That’s it. I really had to just say, ‘I’ve done with this.’”

‘Dangerous’

The football manager said he has spoken to several players experiencing the same issues and tries to signpost them towards support.

He added: “It’s something that I do realise just how difficult and dangerous it is, and how lonely. It’s a horrible place to be.”

“But you can actually tell sometimes. If you’ve been at a club for a while and you’ve got a player who’s normally lively and he’s the heart and soul of the dressing room, and then something happens and he’s changing and there’s things that don’t quite add up.

“Twice it’s happened to me, I’ve asked the player, ‘Is there a problem?’ And basically they’ve had gambling issues and got themselves in a hole.”

‘Bombardment’

Earlier this year, MPs warned that the English Premier League’s proposed ban on gambling companies sponsoring football shirts from 2026 is unlikely to have much effect on reducing exposure to betting.

A report by the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport said the pledge to ban gambling logos from match-day shirt fronts would not protect children from the “bombardment” of betting ads, and criticised the Government for not taking swifter action on gambling reform.

Committee Chair Dame Caroline Dinenage stopped short of endorsing a blanket ban on gambling adverts, but said more should be done “to shield both children and people who have experienced problem gambling from what often seems like a bombardment of advertising branding at football and other sporting events”.

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