Being given tens of thousands of pounds to help purchase a house should have been the opportunity of a lifetime for Sam Perrin. But not so long afterwards, he was breaking down in tears, telling his dad how he had gambled away the funds in a severe online gambling addiction.
The vast amount of money was given to him as a means of settling down after making the 100-mile move to Nottingham from Hertfordshire. It should have allowed him to establish himself and achieve a sense of meaning in life.
Perrin, now a father of two daughters aged seven-months and six-years-old, never played football professionally but was attracted to the lavish lifestyle associated.
Whether it was designer clothes or exclusive trainers; he wanted to afford it all. However, those constant desires started a never-ending spiral towards trouble.
“The addiction came when I enjoyed winning,” said the 31-year-old former kit manager at Notts County.
“Being in a football environment you like nice clothes, nice trainers, nice watches, nice cars. Even though you’re not a player, you’re more a member of the staff, coming from working in the Championship or when QPR were in the Premier League before moving to Notts – you see everyone with that high lifestyle.
“Trainers are three-hundred pounds and sometimes more; watches aren’t cheap. When you start to win big, like five, six, seven thousand pounds, you can go and get a couple of pairs of trainers, a nice watch and then you can go and do it again.”
“One week I’d win three or four thousand pounds and I’d spend it in the shops,” Perrin continued.
“The next week I’d go ‘f*** it, I can do that again’ and put my wages on. Two days later I’ve won nothing and lost it all.
“When you look back at it, I had no wage for the rest of the month so I had to try and win that money back. I was always playing catch up. In the end I was losing tens of thousands of pounds because I couldn’t stop – I just wanted to get it back.”
Perrin spoke with remorse about his previous mistakes. What began as £500 bets on the Kazakhstan cricket team soon led to his darkest moment, when he lost £1500 on just one bet.
Betting companies, such as Betway, are currently under criticism for providing regular gamblers with bonuses, inflicting further damage as addictions to gambling spiral out of control.
The now assistant kit manager for Wolverhampton Wanderers had no experiences with so-called ‘personal VIP managers’ but was still embarrassed to tell his dad of the financial damages.
How could he explain that he had blown the thousands of pounds his dad had given him to get on the property ladder in bets or how he could not afford the rent on his Nottingham home? He feared the inevitable outrage from his parents.
But, with the support of former County boss Kevin Nolan, Perrin eventually climbed from the trench warfare of depression and addiction to face the oncoming onslaught head-on because he knew the grass was greener over the top.
“I never said anything. But after almost two years of doing it I was in such a hole that I had to break out. I broke to the manager at the time, Kevin Nolan, and to be fair he put his arm around me and took me in.”
Perrin was put onto a fast-track NHS programme that included eight weeks of intense therapy and counselling.
The conclusion was that Perrin’s addictive problems stemmed from a traumatic childhood experience – watching as a thirteen-year-old one of his best friends was killed in a road accident.
“It was always a case of trying to impress,” he said. “Just before going back to year nine at school I was doing shopping with my mates and one of them got run over right in front of me. They diagnosed me with PTSD as I was still suffering from that.
“They said that ever since then I’ve wanted to be the best and be the person who people look at to say ‘look at Sam. Everything he’s been through and he’s doing well’.”
He added: “The pressures of people wanting me to achieve pushed me over the edge.
“You don’t realise it until you look back and look at your life story. It doesn’t start with a simple bet; you realise it when connecting the dots.”
Suicide was never an option for Sam; he admitted though that he did always carry an “apology note” in his bag to explain everything if anything tragic was to happen to him.
Eventually, Perrin came out to his dad. He explained how he was sitting in the Kop behind the goal breaking down when it happened.
Perrin has been bet-free for over 18 months and desperately hopes more people will speak out.
Scott Davies, once a professional footballer who suffered from a similar gambling addiction, reiterated the importance of seeking help.
Davies, who works for a gambling addiction consultancy agency, said: “I was once told when I was younger, that learning from other people’s mistakes is hugely invaluable.
He added: “If you are a VIP member of a bookmaker or casino, what it really means is you are the biggest loser.”
If you struggle with gambling addictions, follow this link to access support methods: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/gambling-addiction/?tabname=self-help-tips
This article was initially published online for Platform Magazine, on February 29, 2020.