Problem gambling is widespread among professional and youth footballers in Sweden, according to a large survey of footballers, youth academy players, coaches and staff in the 32 teams in the top two divisions in the country.
The key findings relate to gambling among players in the survey undertaken by the Karolinska Institute, a research-led medical university, and were published by the Swedish Professional Football Leagues (SPFL) on November 16.
Tobias Elgán, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, said the survey also found that “almost one in four footballers younger than 18 years have gambled during the past year and seven percent of these have gambling problems (i.e., 3 points or more on the Problem Gambling Severity Index)”.
“Results also show that there is a need to raise awareness about gambling among players and other staff around the players. There is also a need for more systematic work to facilitate the identification of players at risk and how to deal with situations when it is clear that players have problems,” Elgán told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
The increased risk and occurrence of problem gambling, as measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index, is 7 percent extra among senior players, 13 percent among players aged 18, and 7 percent among players under 18 years old, according to the survey.
In February 2023, the whole report will be published, with the next part primarily focusing on mental health.
The SPFL commissioned the report after observing and hearing stories from athletes that suffer from mental health difficulties and exhibit various types of risky behaviour.
Anders Wikström, who is responsible for integrity issues at the SPFL, said he wants to work with clubs to develop “even more effective promotion, prevention and emergency measures”.
“Therefore, there was a need for a research report on what it actually looks like in our clubs. Now we have the answers to the extent of our challenges as well as proposals for different types of efforts, which will be the next step in our work,” Wikström said.
Part of the study also deals with match-fixing.
Of the players that responded to the survey, 3.6 percent said they had been approached at some point in their career by match-fixers, 0.5 percent said they had been approached within the past year and 12 percent said they know someone who had been contacted.
Wikström said: “This needs to be addressed further. Already today, we have a strong foundation with initiatives around education in these game-related issues, but we must do more. The proposals from the research group fall primarily into two areas. Partly we are working on clarifying policies, partly we are developing our training efforts.”
Samuel Wahlberg, an investigator at the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA), told VIXIO it has led the national council against match-fixing, which includes trade groups BOS and SPER and has ambitions to be “a centre for knowledge” on the matter.
Every year the SGA collects reports from the licensees on suspicious cases.
It also entered into an agreement with Sportradar in February 2022 which sees the SGA receive alerts and monthly reports on match-fixing.
“We try to be an active participant in international work such as the Group of Copenhagen because match-fixing is a problem that can take place across many borders,” Wahlberg said.
The SGA recently established “a more operational-focused group consisting of members from the platform that works with cases. Dividing the platform into a more strategic and more operational group has been very valuable and we hope to see more actual results from the work going forward,” said Wahlberg.
The SGA has the power to regulate what types of bets can be placed on sporting events.
On January 1, 2021, regulations and general advice to counteract match-fixing entered into force in Sweden, banning bets on football matches lower than the second division and bets on so-called negative events, such as red and yellow cards or penalty kicks.
In October 2021, the SGA made more changes after Gunnar Larsson, director-general of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, presented a series of recommendations following an investigation into match-fixing and unlicensed gambling.
The report called for the creation of a centralised platform for relevant stakeholders, such as gambling operators, sports authorities and the police, to share information regarding betting and criminal activity.