English Cricketer Speaks Out About 11 Year Gambling Addiction
by Glenn Baird -
November 19, 2020
As part of a Safer Gambling Week initiative, Chris Wood, bowler for Hampshire Cricket Club has been speaking exclusively to Sky Sports in a candid reveal about his struggles with gambling addiction.
Chris Wood says he was "governed by fear" before we worked up the courage to reveal his gambling addition and that he hopes by doing so he will inspire other professional athletes to do the same.
Despite a successful career on the pitch, winning four white ball trophies since 2010, the Hampshire bowler, now aged 30, explains how that on field success masked the daily off-field struggle that gambling addition threw his way.
It was April 2020 that Wood finally spoke out about his gambling addiction. At the height of a global pandemic, with access to his sport taken away from him, the 30-year-old spoke out about his addiction on a podcast and has done so again, in order to support the Safer Gambling Week campaign.
"For so long I was completely governed by fear and a lot of that fear was around my professional job title," Wood said.
"I always thought that I'd be judged and wondered if Hampshire would not see past my addiction and want to get rid of me.
"I internalised everything and always tried to deal with it on my own. 'What's a professional cricketer doing getting a gambling addiction?' - all this kind of stuff. But in April when I came out and told my story I didn't get that from anybody.
"Hopefully by doing what I did, it will enable people to feel like they can speak out because for so long I felt like I couldn't.
"Coming out in the public domain and being judged within the professional game were always my main fears, but what I've received has been completely the opposite."
Wood believes that by speaking to Sporting Chance and the Professional Cricketers' Association he has been able to inspire other sports stars to do the same, and seek the help they need.
"I know for a fact there's professional sportspeople out there who are struggling off the back of my podcast alone," he said.
"I think gambling, and not just because I went through it, is the fastest-growing addiction there is and the most destroying.
"You can lose everything and everything around you in the space of 10 minutes if you really wanted to, it's that destructive. I'm almost adamant it's rife in sport."
“Gambling had ground me down”
As Wood’s career at Hampshire began, the 20-year-old had already started down a path towards gambling addiction.
Time away from the field, especially time spent on the side-lines with injury were particularly difficult for Wood.
"In 2016 when I had my second knee operation was by far my worst experience with it all," Wood said.
"I was bed-ridden from my operation, I couldn't put my right leg down for eight weeks and I had to have my leg in a machine for 16 hours a day.
"I was in the last year of my contract and I just couldn't cope. Gambling had ground me down enough, but then cricket was taken away from me and you get thoughts like 'is my career over now?'
"Those thoughts mixed in with all that time lying in your bed experiencing depression, anxiety, insomnia - all those kind of things - the only thing that I could escape to and what made me feel okay was gambling."
Patrick Forster Would not have Survived Lockdown
Patrick Forster is first-class cricketer who echoes much of what Wood has said, stating that he does not believe he could have survived a period of self-isolation when his gambling addiction was at its most consuming.
"If I was still gambling to the levels that I were, I would not have survived lockdown. Simple as that," Foster said.
"The toll it would have taken on me financially and mentally, I can pretty much guarantee that something not very good would have happened because of the amount of time I would have had.
"I was still able to gamble to the level that I did when I had other things going on, so with lockdown and that boredom, that isolation, the time that I would have had would have meant I wouldn't have survived it."
EPIC Risk Management
Both Wood and Forster now find themselves working for EPIC Risk Management, a company that helps organisations prevent gambling-related harm.
Forster states that the organisation does not look to discourage people from gambling but looks to educate, including professional athletes, how to do so responsibly.
“I head up our educational programmes, which is essentially where we go and educate people using our own experiences and stories, but also to tell them why it's important, signs to look out for and allow them to explore their own relationship with it.
"Chris Wood is just going to make the work that we do in that area even better. To have a guy who's currently playing and who's able to share his story is incredibly powerful and will hopefully make a big impact."
As Wood explains often the hardest step to make on the road to recovery is the first one:
"What I would say to people who are thinking deep down that it's going to affect their career, is I would be very surprised if that happened in this day and age because there's so much more awareness around mental health and addiction now," Wood said.
For anyone looking to make that first step who wants to gain back some control over their gambling addiction BetBlocker is an app that can be installed on mobile devices, PCs and laptops that denies you access to thousands of gambling sites.
BetBlocker is a registered charity in the UK and, as such it is completely free to install on as many devices as you want.
To learn more you can visit the BetBlocker website.