Soccer Player Who Gambled Away Millions Teams Up with UK Charity

  • Ex-Newcastle United player Keith Gillespie will recount his experience at a charity evening
  • The funds raised during the event will go to the Gambling with Lives organization
  • The soccer star has been working to increase problem gambling awareness throughout the UK
stacks of coins and miniature football
90s soccer star Keith Gillespie will be telling all about his battle with gambling during a charity evening. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Soccer star joins forces to raise funds

Keith Gillespie, a soccer star from Northern Ireland who played for Newcastle United in the 1990s, has teamed up with UK charity Gambling with Lives after publicizing his own history with gambling addiction.

As revealed in his autobiography, How Not to Be a Football Millionaire, published in 2013, the Premier League star became legally bankrupt, despite his worth being estimated at £7m ($8.64m).

Following a Premier League TV special aired in January, his story became more widely known. The retired winger has now tweeted about his hopes to raise money for the organization by treating fans to a night of his tales in Jarrow, Newcastle.

An evening with Gillespie

Gambling with Lives was set up by Charles and Liz Ritchie in 2017 after their son died following a struggle with gambling. Speaking about the evening due to take place on Friday, September 13, Charles said this would be “an appropriate occasion”, given Gillespie’s first-hand experience of gambling problems. He added:

We thank him for his honesty and know that this will be a fantastic evening with a lot of laughs and fascinating stories.”

Through this event, Gillespie aims to make his own contribution to the Gambling with Lives charity, who estimate that there are between 250 and 650 gambling-related suicides every year in the UK.

Gillespie is well known in soccer circles, having earned 86 caps for the Northern Ireland team between 1994 and 2008. He started his career at Manchester United in 1992 after winning the FA Youth Cup, where he earned £46 ($56.76) a week before moving on to Newcastle United and making thousands per match.

Gambling out of boredom

The star revealed how, for the young Gillespie, life was “boring” outside of the game. He found himself placing his first bet with fellow player and Scottish star Colin Mckee. Soon addicted, it led him to bring in fixed-odds coupons to play syndicates with the coaches, and even with well-known soccer manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

that first win, the adrenaline of it

During the Premier League special, Gillespie spoke about “that first win, the adrenaline of it. It doesn’t matter how much you have on a horse or a dog, the thrill of winning was there and that is what got me hooked.”

Black Friday

Later on in his career, while playing for Newcastle United, Gillespie admitted losing thousands in a weekend on what he called “Black Friday”. With a day off from training, his first bet of the day won him £2,200 ($2,714) on a horse. But by the end of it, he had lost £47,000 ($58,000).

Gillespie said: “Before you know it, you have lost that and then you are betting £1,000 ($1,233) every race. Then because you are on such a loser that increases to two thousand, three thousand, four thousand and before you know it you don’t know what you are betting. You are just saying numbers.”

By 2010, he had been declared legally bankrupt.

After the success of the Premier League special, Gillespie has been regularly visiting his old stomping grounds to tell his story in front of old fans and raise awareness.