Carey - also known to Eastbourne Borough fans after a spell at Priory Lane - became addicted to gambling as an 18-year-old, shortly after signing his first professional contract, and it took a severe toll on his mental, physical and financial wellbeing for several years. Lewis said:
“As a footballer in recovery from a gambling addiction, I’m excited to be involved in this partnership. With my own experiences of how harmful gambling can be, I feel it is vital that this excellent programme reaches as many young people as possible in the club’s community.
“As a youngster, no-one warned me about the harm gambling can cause. If someone I felt I could relate to had done so, it would have made a big difference to my life and that’s where this programme comes in.”
Lewes FC has refused gambling sponsorship money and even put Gambling with Lives’ logo on the front of their men’s first team shirt as a statement against the saturation of gambling sponsorship in the game.
John Peel, director at Lewes FC, said: “From the very outset of our partnership with Gambling with Lives, we wanted to go beyond shirt sponsorship and create something bigger and longer term together. This educational programme achieves that and then some, it’s a nationwide step towards understanding gambling-related harm in an area that has often had to rely upon gambling industry funded programmes.
“We are delighted that Lewis Carey will lead on the programme delivery. As a footballer and someone who has suffered gambling-related harm, his testimony will be both impactful and insightful.”
Gambling with Lives’ ground-breaking new education programme is aimed at preventing gambling harm and will be delivered to young people aged between 11 and 16 in schools and clubs across the country. Later this month, the charity will deliver their programme to youth team players and members of the local community at Lewes FC – the first time it will be delivered at a football club.
Created by experts on gambling harm, academics, teachers, award-winning filmmakers, and people with lived experience of gambling harm, the programme aims to influence the way gambling awareness education is delivered to young people and address the lack of information and help currently available – something that leads to lives being lost each year. Crucially, the programme also focuses on how addictive products work and the methods and impact of industry marketing, which sets it apart from programmes delivered by industry-funded charities.
Gambling addiction is a huge problem in the UK, with research indicating that there are between and 250 and 650 gambling-related suicides each year. Gambling addiction has the highest suicide rate of all the addictions, with those addicted to gambling up to 15 times more like to take their own lives than members of the general population. There are currently up to 1.4 million adults addicted to gambling the UK, along with at least 55,000 children.
James Grimes, Head of Education at Gambling with Lives, said: "Lewes FC has already done some fantastic work in raising awareness of gambling harms and I’m really pleased that they are now working with us in prevention.
“Football is so often the hook that draws young people into gambling, so we believe it will be especially effective to deliver this programme at club level.
“By raising awareness of the harm that gambling can cause from an early age, as opposed to just waiting for the harm to occur, we’re confident we can help protect many young people.”
This announcement comes at a time when football’s relationship with gambling is under increased scrutiny, with the Government’s exploring the possibility of a ban on gambling shirt sponsorship as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Paul Merson’s recent BBC One documentary highlighted the link between footballers and gambling addiction and reported that professional footballers are three times more likely to suffer from gambling addiction than other young men.