Premiership soccer players are struggling to perform on the pitch because of poker games before a match; that’s according to Graeme Law of the University of Chester.
Speaking at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Birmingham, UK, Law explained that a number of high profile soccer players attributed a decline in performance to worries related to gambling.
Poker games between players is a common trend in soccer with many professionals using it as a way to pass the time during coach trips and overnight stays.
While the majority of players enjoy poker for its inherent entertainment value and competitive aspects, some appear to be taking things a little more seriously.
According to Law, the 34 players he interviewed, including some that currently play in the Premiership, believed that poker losses on the coach directly before a game affected how well they played on the pitch.
“I have lost a lot and I had a stinker because it’s all I thought about during the game,” said one unnamed Premiership player.
Backing up this account of events, another player explained that he’d seen teammates suffer a similar fate.
“On the way to the game he lost about two grand, and he was only 18. Now he had a shocker in the game,” explained the player.
In addition to issues caused by playing against teammates, Law’s anecdotal evidence revealed that the presence of online gambling made things even worse.
“I liked to bet on the bus, but it got worse when I could bet online. I was able to do it all the time with no one knowing. I lost a lot,” another player stated.
Of course, not all soccer players have a problem with poker. Over the last few years, a variety of ex-professionals have transitioned from the pitch to the poker table and enjoyed a lot of success.
Former Tottenham Hotspur FC and Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham can often be found at many of the biggest tournaments in Europe and currently has live tournament earnings totaling $329,477.
In fact, soccer players have also been used by various poker sites in the last 12 months to expose their brands to new demographics.
While the findings from Law don’t paint the intersection between soccer and poker in a positive light, it’s worth remembering that his sample size only covers 34 players.
Although we’re not suggesting that makes his points any less valid, it possibly doesn’t reflect the full spectrum of poker playing soccer pros.