Wellington Phoenix cult hero Paul Ifill has spoken about a gambling addiction that saw him lose £2 million ($4.1 million) in his playing days, reaching the point at which he was betting on raindrops rolling down his flat window.
The 44-year-old scored 33 goals in 106 appearances for the Phoenix after moving from Crystal Palace but had his playing career cut short through injury. Post-playing he toured rugby clubs and used his experience and story to educate others on the risks of gambling.
He has spoken candidly about his own personal addiction and the lowest points of that time with James Marshall on the What A Lad podcast.
“I tried to work it out when I started doing the gambling talks with the rugby, and I reckon it I lost about £2 million,” Ifill told Marshall.
Ifill says his gambling went “through the roof” when online gambling came to the fore in the mid-2000s. That coupled with the money made as a professional football and a culture of gambling within changing rooms is where he says the issue stemmed from.
He made some shocking revelations about his time at the Phoenix “I was betting on myself to score first in games, which is definitely highly illegal”.
Paul Ifill celebrates scoring for the Wellington Phoenix. Photo /Getty Images
Futher, he says that during his time playing for Sheffield United and Crystal Palace, he would spend as much as $20,000 a day on bets.
“My biggest bets were probably £5000, maybe £10,000 on the things that I thought were real bankers,” he told the What A Lad podcast.
“...it was just cumulative. I’d go in the bookies, I’d get £4000 out and I’d go to the bookies for the day and then I’d spend it in a couple of hours, and then I’d go back into the bank and get another £5000.
“There were days I’d do £10,000 and then go the next day and do the same. Then you’re borrowing money to get through to the end of the month, so it just racked up.
“I think I was earning £9000 a week at Sheffield United and Palace and I was probably spending £10,000 or £11,000 a week.
“You just keep borrowing, keep getting credit, and you get the odd win and just get you across the line for a little bit.”
During his time at Sheffield United he roomed with Northern Irish star Keith Gillespie, who played over 100 matches for Newcastle. Gillespie was deep in his own gambling addiction at the time which saw him lose in excess of $14 million across his career.
“It was a mess,” Ifill said. “We were ridiculous. We used to bet on raindrops racing down the window, and flies landing on walls.
“We’d have £500 each, you’d pick a fly and which fly made it around all four walls, you’d pay the other one the money.
“Now it sounds ridiculous, but at the time that’s just what we did.
“We’d bet on anything. If there was no football on we’d bet on ice hockey somewhere, or we’d be betting on the NFL.”
Ifill emerged six years ago from his addiction and hasn’t laid a punt since then.
Do you or someone you know have an issue with gambling?
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