Record England goalscorer Wayne Rooney has spoken in detail about how he fell into a gambling addiction during his early days at Manchester United, despite agreeing to join Derby County in a deal that is being sponsored by a bookmaker.
The 34-year-old made his debut for the Championship club this week, having been named captain by manager Phillip Cocu, but his move to Pride Park has been somewhat overshadowed by the betting firm 32Red’s sponsorship of the deal, which sees Rooney wear the same number on his back as part of their promotion agreement.
Although the move has been ratified by the Football Association, and Derby have confirmed that the club are paying his wages and not 32Red, Rooney’s relationship with the betting firm has come under further scrutiny given how he suffered from gambling problems early in his career.
In a move to try and use his position to help others and prevent them from falling into the same trap, Rooney has revealed how he used to find online betting a way of filling the time while away with England or United.
“I was a young lad who’d just come into a lot of money," Rooney said in a promotional video released by Red32. "For an away game with Manchester United you stay in a hotel – and with England you’re in a hotel for seven to 10 days. You get bored and do things to fill the time. At that time gambling was one of them. It was easy to place bets by phone. It didn’t feel like real money. It wasn't like I had to go into a bookies and put bets where there are limits.
"Before you know it you’ve lost a good bit and you don’t realise the amount you’re putting on at the time. I won at the start and thought it was easy money. It sucks you in a bit more and I ended up losing, ended up down."
Rooney joined United in 2004 on a contract understood to be worth £55,000-a-week, an extraordinary salary for an 18-year-old at the time, having already made his England debut the year before.
He went on to increase his salary at Old Trafford to an eye-watering £300,000-a-week, but said that he used the error of his ways early in his career to get out of gambling and ensure he did not fall into a downward spiral that has claimed many players before him.
“You’re there to play for your country or club and when you’re losing money the way I was then it will affect you," he said. “Thankfully I managed to pay up what I lost and I didn’t gamble again. I’ve learned from my mistakes. If you carry on gambling, you lose more. That’s when you can get sucked into a bad situation.”
Rooney’s admission came as part of 32Red’s ‘Stay In Control’ series which aims to highlight the dangers that come with excessive gambling.
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