Families affected by gambling addiction call for football clubs to cut ties with betting industry
Report by Granada Reports journalist Anna Youssef
The father of a man who took his own life after getting into gambling debt is calling on top football clubs to cut ties with the betting industry.
Ryan Myers was just 27 when he died in 2014 after becoming addicted to gambling. His dad, John, says he had no idea about the extent of his son's addiction.
He said: "It was actually only on the day he died that we realised how bad it was.
"The day he died we sat in his house and somebody noticed on the floor there was a betting slip."
Breaking with emotion, he added: "And when we picked it up, we noticed that his card had been declined and we knew he had been paid the day before so that was the first flag."
John believes that the gambling industry is "predatory."
He said: "They are always trying to suck people in - we call it grooming- I call them leeches because they suck the life out of people.
"So when Ryan says he was trying to quit, he couldn't quit because everywhere he looked there were gambling adverts everywhere - TV, radio - he was getting texts on his phones, he was getting emails, he just felt he couldn't get away from it.
"Every time he tried to stop they were dragging him back in."
More than 60 people who have been harmed by gambling are walking from Manchester to Liverpool to demand reform within the game.
The group includes families who have lost loved ones to gambling-related suicide, with many doing it in memory of avid Liverpool fan Ryan.
Walkers will call at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground on Friday before finishing at Everton's Goodison Park and Liverpool's Anfield Stadium the following day.
The walk is the latest event organised by The Big Step, which campaigns to end all gambling advertising in football. It now has the support of 27 clubs in the UK and Ireland.
James Grimes is a recovering gambling addict, who started the Big Step Campaign, said his addiction began when he was 16 with a £5 football bet.
He said: "I didn't think at that age it would lead to 12 years of misery really, but it did and I look back now I am in recovery and football failed me.
"Football let me down because I am a huge football fan, always have been all my life. I love this sport. I trusted it and it sold me addictive products just to make a few extra quid."
James wants the government to end gambling sponsorship in football.
"If football or government doesn't do that, I have absolutely no doubt that fans will make that happen because gambling sponsorship in football is not just unhealthy it's unpopular.
"Fans don't want it. Fans don't want to be a walking billboard for a casino so fans will make this happen and we remain confident that the government will do this."
In response the government said: "We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age. We will be publishing a White Paper as part of a review of gambling legislation in the coming weeks."
Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton have been approached for comment.