Top cricketers to be given counselling on drink and drugs addiction

The spectre of excess and addiction – whether to drink, sex, drugs or gambling – has long hung over English sport, with footballers and, more recently, cauliflower-eared rugby internationals inspiring headlines they would rather were not true.

Cricket has been a game more immune than most to such lurid coverage. Even allowing for the aquatic antics of Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff, who was stripped of the England vice-captaincy for his drunken behaviour on a Caribbean pedalo during the last World Cup, the tender thwack of willow on leather is synonymous with a more genteel sensibility.

It used to be, anyway. England's cricket players, Flintoff among them, are to be enrolled on a professional counselling scheme that aims to deter them from gambling and substance and alcohol abuse. The Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) wants the international stars to "recognise signs of problems in yourself and your team mates". Its Addictive Behaviour Programme will arrange clinical help for players considered vulnerable and also seek to help them "self-manage your own problem(s) and be able to focus on the challenges of playing cricket at the highest level".

The concern is that as professional cricketers become better rewarded, they become vulnerable to the temptations facing many young men with healthy disposable incomes.

The sessions are being run by the counselling service Performance Healthcare. First mooted at the end of last year, the programme has been running since March, with all 18 first-class counties involved. A total of 334 players have now benefited from the service. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) agreed this week that England international players should also enrol. The first attendees are likely to begin their sessions soon after the current Test match series against South Africa finishes.

The assistant chief executive of the PCA, Jason Ratcliffe, said: "Binge drinking is a national problem among young people and online gambling is widely accessible... Addiction is a serious subject and we hope that these workshops will mean players are less likely to succumb to addictive behaviour."

The scheduled attendance of Flintoff will be of particular interest to England fans. During the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, his "Fredalo" antics earned him front-page headlines on the tabloids: he was also fined and stripped of the vice-captaincy. He apologised and gave up alcohol for several months.

Other cricketers have brushed with the law over drugs. Ed Giddins, the Sussex and England bowler, was briefly banned for cocaine use. Keith Piper, the Warwickshire and England "A" wicket keeper, who is one of the key figures behind the PCA's programme, was banned twice for cannabis use and the second time was fatal for his playing career.

Dr Simon Timson, the ECB science and medicine manager, said: "We aim to de-clutter all aspects of players' lives... People from all sections of society face challenges with addictions so it would be naive to think it will never happen to a professional cricketer."

At one county the scheme is already achieving the desired effect. Simon Cook, a bowler at Kent, said: "Our dressing room poker games have stopped since the workshops began. A lot of the boys now have a better understanding of how, what and where trouble can start and are able to spot signs early."

Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there