Paul Merson reveals he ‘blew his family’s £160k house deposit’ on table tennis bets during lockdown… and admits having ‘suicidal thoughts’ after struggling with anxiety over not being able to work
- Paul Merson has spoken openly in the past about how he lost around £7million as he battled a gambling addiction for 35 years
- He believed that he had turned a corner, but suffered a relapse during the first Covid-19 lockdown
- The 54-year-old was not able to fulfil his role as a pundit on Sky Sports due to football not being played
- Merson says that all his wages now go to his wife, who gives him ‘pocket money’
- Last year, he fronted a documentary titled Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me
Former England football Paul Merson has told of how he suffered a relapse of his gambling addiction during the first Covid-19 lockdown and lost £160,000 – money that had been set aside to help buy a house for his family.
Merson, 54, has spoken openly in the past about how he lost around £7million as he battled a gambling problem for 35 years.
The ex-Arsenal midfielder placed his first bet at the age of 16 and also struggled with alcohol and drug addictions during and after his playing career.
However, he believed he had turned a corner and last year Merson fronted a BBC documentary titled Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me, which examined the huge impact that addiction had had on his life.
However, Merson has now admitted that he turned back to the bookies during the pandemic because he felt so anxious about a lack of work.
With no football matches being played, Merson was not able to fulfil his role as a pundit on Sky Sports.
‘I was on furlough from Sky Sports and at first I enjoyed the lockdown,’ he told The Sun. ‘I was in the garden with my youngest kids and the sun was out. But then I started getting addicted to bulletins when Boris Johnson and the bloke with the red tie came out.
Paul Merson has told of how he suffered a relapse of his gambling addiction during lockdown
He was not able to fulfil his role as a pundit on Sky Sports as football was not being played
‘My anxiety kicked in and I thought, “They’re not going to have Soccer Saturday any more” was thinking, “I’m not going to be able to earn anything”. My older kids’ mums have houses and I want to give my younger kids a future.
‘Kate [Merson’s wife] and I had £160,000 saved up and I blew it in a few bets. It was all online, but it wasn’t a bookmaker, it was a private bookie.
‘My last bet was eight grand on a table tennis player. I didn’t have a particular knowledge of table tennis but everything was locked down at that point, so there wasn’t much to bet on.
‘I remember sitting in my front room and having suicidal thoughts and my kids were playing and I was thinking, “Oh my God, I’ve just done everything in”.’
During his football career, Merson won two league titles at Arsenal and earned 21 England caps
Merson, a father of eight, saw his first two marriages fall apart due to his addictions and he believes that his current wife Kate would leave him if he relapses again.
As a result, he revealed that all of his wages now go to Kate and that he receives ‘pocket money’ from her. Merson also attends Gamblers Anonymous sessions and has become an ambassador for addiction support app Recoverlution.
During his career as a footballer, Merson won two league titles and the FA Cup while at Arsenal and earned 21 England caps. He also played for Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Walsall.