Chris Wood: Hampshire bowler calls for curbs on betting advertising in sport

Chris Wood is now mentoring first-class county academies, drawing on his gambling addiction experiences

Hampshire bowler Chris Wood is calling for sports organisations to do more to limit the reach and influence of betting companies.

Wood, 30, was given a two-month ban, suspended for two years, in December after he admitted placing bets on nine cricket matches between 2011 and 2016.

He first revealed his addiction in May after attending recovery sessions with the Sporting Chance clinic, admitting gambling had dominated his life for 11 years, “taking up almost every hour”.

Wood, who also extended his white-ball contract at Hampshire in December and became a father in the past year, feels action is desperately needed to limit the presence of betting sponsorship and advertising around top-level sport.

“Everywhere you look these days, it’s rife,” he told BBC South Today. “How it’s advertised, it’s just so in-your-face so regularly wherever you go.

“Lots of football clubs have betting firms as their main shirt sponsors and, at times, it can feel like there’s no getting away from it.

“Something like one in five adverts on television during sports events are for betting providers or are gambling related.

“I found it really hard in my first six months of recovery to try to escape my feelings and emotions around gambling when all these adverts were popping up in between a football match I was watching.”

Michail Antonio in action for West Ham against Liverpool
West Ham United are among eight Premier League clubs with a betting company as their main shirt sponsor this season

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is undertaking a comprehensive review of gambling laws to make sure they are “fit for the digital age”.

A public call for evidence is also open for contributions.

“We’re determined to tackle problem gambling in all its forms,” said a DCMS spokesperson. “The work will build upon our strong track record of introducing measures to protect those at risk.”

The Sunday Times has reportedexternal-link gambling logos may be banned from sports shirts as part of a potential government review of the Gambling Act 2005. It could cause the biggest shake-up to advertising revenue in professional sport since tobacco sponsorship was outlawed.

New restrictions designed at making online casino games less intensive and safer have also been announced by the Gambling Commission.

Online operators will be required to implement new rules, including limiting a player’s losses or number of spins by 31 October.

Wood, meanwhile, stresses the evidence is there to support a need for greater advertising restrictions.

“I think the statistics are something like one in 30 people in work spend more than they can afford daily on gambling,” he said.

“But that figure’s one in six in the sporting environment. We already know the evidence backs up the case that professional sportspeople are competitive in nature.

“A winning and losing mentality very much transfers over into gambling and there’s lots of character traits that correlate with those of gambling addiction.”

‘Uplifting experience’

James Vince and Chris Wood
Wood (right) helped Hampshire win the 2018 One-Day Cup alongside skipper James Vince

Left-arm seamer Wood, a former England Under-19 international, is now using his experiences to mentor first-class county academy players.

He has spoken of the pitfalls and dangers of becoming a gambling addict through his work with the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

“It’s been a really uplifting experience,” said Wood. “How I look on it now is that I can make a difference.

“To be able to come out and talk about the issues I had has helped me turn a corner.

“I feel like I don’t have to hide any more. My issues were my issues and I feel like I have a story to tell and to educate people moving forward.

“I’ve had a lot of love and support and I’ve been really surprised by the reaction from the cricket community, which has really helped me on my journey to recovery.”

Chris Wood was talking to BBC South Today’s Lewis Coombes.