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Hearts' Kevin Kyle welcomes football gambling project


Kyle candid over gambline addiction

BBC Scotland exclusive
By Alasdair Lamont

Hearts striker Kevin Kyle believes a new project aimed at educating players about gambling issues could have helped him avoid a spiralling addiction.

The scheme, to be piloted by the players' union, aims to highlight the perils of excessive gambling.

Kyle told BBC Scotland: "If that opportunity had come where I could speak to somebody confidentially, it would've been easier."

The project also aims to address issues regarding the integrity of the sport.

But it is the first strand of the plan that is most relevant to Kyle, who began gambling as a teenager.

In a candid interview with BBC Scotland he describes how, as a young player with Sunderland, his habit became increasingly worse.

I could probably pick any team in the Scottish Premier League and know someone through word of mouth who's a mad gambler

Hearts striker Kevin Kyle

"I remember, come to the end of each month, having no money left for getting to training, or wanting to go home to Scotland because I'd just be gambling it all away," he added.

"It was a disaster and I didn't know who to turn to or how I was going to combat this problem, and that's why it probably gripped me for a good 15 years."

Kyle puts his successful rehabilitation down to the help of his partner, but believes the approach to be taken by PFA Scotland - in conjunction with the counselling charity RCA Trust - can also work, but only if the support is offered over a sustained period.

"Being a gambler, you feel ashamed of yourself, so to go and speak to someone about it is a very brave thing to do," he added.

"I'm sure there are kids out there in youth teams and even senior players who are looking for this kind of help, but they're maybe too scared to speak to somebody about it.

"But if somebody comes to them it might be the opportunity where they can actually open up and hopefully get it sorted out, because gambling is every bit as bad (as drink and drugs)."

Kyle maintains that a gambling culture is rife within football and that his own experience is by no means an isolated one.

"I could probably pick any team in the Scottish Premier League and know someone through word of mouth who's a mad gambler," he continued.

The Hearts forward admits his addiction almost certainly contributed to his failure to live up to his potential, with his gambling losses playing on his mind and affecting his on-field performances.

He believes that it was only after he joined Kilmarnock in 2009, and subsequently Hearts the following year, that he has been able to concentrate fully again on playing.

PFA Scotland chairman Jack Ross
Ross is involved in implementing the PFA Scotland pilot programme

Kyle also endorses the second area of the new pilot project, which aims to ensure that players are fully versed on rules surrounding gambling, so that they do not land themselves in trouble by - innocently or otherwise - compromising the integrity of the game.

The recent sending off of Motherwell's Steve Jennings, which is being investigated by the Association of British Bookmakers because of an alleged irregular pattern of bets placed on that eventuality, has brought the issue into focus.

PFA Scotland chairman Jack Ross says this initiative was in the pipeline before Jennings' dismissal in December, but admits it makes it all the more timely.

"The situation around Steve and the publicity it generated would act as a wake-up call to any player to realise they could be entirely innocent in a situation but, because they're in a relatively high-profile job and because of what's happened in other sports, it'll make front page news," he told BBC Scotland.

Ross is hopeful that the pilot, if it proves successful and if funding can be secured, will be rolled out to all senior clubs in Scotland.

Learn more about this story on Reporting Scotland, Friday at 1830 GMT on BBC One Scotland

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see also
Red card bet probe 'just started'
22 Dec 10 |  Motherwell
Gambling advice for footballers
04 Feb 11 |  Scotland

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