Belfast Telegraph

Northern Irleand's Kyle Lafferty comes clean over gambling addiction in bid to help others

By Claire Williamson

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has revealed he has a gambling addiction.

Last August the Fermanagh man was fined £23,000 and warned over his future conduct after being charged by the English Football Association with misconduct after betting on a football match, which professional players are banned from doing.

Lafferty told BBC Scotland he has an addiction and is speaking up "not for sympathy" but in a bid to help others.

While he didn't disclose figures, he said there were times when he "lost big" and linked the beginning of his addiction to when he was a teen playing slot machines in Northern Ireland.

The 30-year-old admitted his issues began after he made his 2008 switch from Burnley to Rangers where he was betting on "anything".

Lafferty said it had been "a lot" for wife Vanessa to take in, but he felt the "time has come now" to be honest.

"Vanessa will tell you I don't like talking. I don't know what it is. I like keeping everything to myself, but the time has come now," he said.

The Hearts striker said the team and staff have been "incredible" in their support and he also praised Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who he said had been "brilliant".

"What they've done for me makes me feel stronger this time," he added.

"I know I'm going to take all sorts of grief off fans of other clubs. It's a big thing to do what I'm doing. I know Hearts fans and my teammates will be behind me, though.

"I'm not talking about this because I'm looking for sympathy.

"I could have got help in private and nobody would have known about it.

"I want to do it publicly because I want to be honest and if there are any other footballers who are addicted to gambling, then maybe me speaking about my battle might help them."

Speaking of his fine last year, the former Norwich City player said the "punishment could have been a lot worse".

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said: "I admire Kyle for speaking so openly and honestly about his battle with gambling. We have talked about it at length and I have assured him he has the full support of me, my staff and everyone at the Irish Football Association as he aims to overcome this addiction."

In a statement Hearts FC said Kyle has their "total support".

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