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Hearts stand by Lafferty after gambling admission

Ann Budge

Ann Budge says Hearts will stand by striker Kyle Lafferty who has admitted an addiction to gambling (pic: SNS Group).

Hearts owner Ann Budge says the club will stand by striker Kyle Lafferty after the Northern Ireland international admitted to a gambling addiction.

The 30-year-old revealed his problems began following his move to Rangers from Burnley nine years ago and Mrs Budge has praised the 30-year-old for approaching the club for help.

“On behalf of everyone here at Hearts, I would like to formally record our total support for Kyle Lafferty as he moves forward to deal with his acknowledged addiction to gambling,” she said.

“Kyle took the enormously brave step of coming to the club and asking for help. No one should underestimate how difficult that decision was for him and his family.

“However, as is well recognised, the first step to dealing with a problem of this nature is to acknowledge that the problem exists. He has earned our great respect for doing so.”

Lafferty, who was fined £23,000 by the English Football Association last summer after breaking betting rules during his time at Norwich City, hopes that opening up on his addiction will aid his battle to overcome it.

Talking about his problems, he said: “About halfway through my contract with Rangers I didn’t have anything better to do after training than go to the bookies or sit online. Betting on football had been banned and, if anything, things got worse. I’d bet on horses instead.

“I knew absolutely nothing about horses. I still don’t have a clue. I open the app on my phone and go by the colour of the jersey or the name. If it’s a winner, it’s a winner; if it’s not, it’s not, and I move on to the next one.

“It was every day on the horses and every single race. I was betting on anything; horses, dogs, virtual racing, roulette.

“There’s been times when I’ve lost big. I don’t want to go into figures, but I’ve lost on the roulette and then I’d be so close to getting it all back. I might be a grand or two from getting it back and I’d keep on going.

Kyle Lafferty
Kyle Lafferty: problems (pic: SNS Group).

“I’d be up two or three grand and I’d end up losing the lot. It didn’t affect me at all because I knew I was about to get a move and there’d be a signing-on fee or there was a bonus coming and it would make up for the money I lost.

“The thing is, I’m one of these people who could wake up in the morning and feel absolutely shattered, then I can flick a button and I’m hyper, I’m the clown and I’m doing the jokes. I’m taking my anger out on the training pitch. Football was my escape.”

Mrs Budge stressed that as far as the football is concerned, it would be business as usual regarding the forward.

She said: “Kyle has the total backing of the coaching staff and his team-mates as he deals with this challenge.

“It is a testament to the great footballer and character he is, that he has in no way allowed his personal battle to affect his performance on the training ground or on the football field. For the avoidance of doubt, Kyle will continue to train and play as normal.”

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