Alcohol Addiction in Sports

Published On: June 23, 2015

Alcoholism in sport has recently been back in the news headlines. Stories include an interview given by ex-England star Paul Gascoigne and a book written by French rugby star Mathieu Bastareaud. Both stories concerned the stars’ struggles with alcoholism.

In this blog, we discuss some of the reasons for alcoholism in sport. We discuss these factors by way of a numbered list.

#1. Stress

One reason for alcoholism in sport is the stress stars are exposed to from an early age. This stress is often by virtue of the fame that sporting success brings. This stress is often caused by the pressure to perform and win. Sports stars are highly paid. Fans fork out big to watch their teams play. Fans thus expect their team to win. If their team does not win then individual team members generally become subject to criticism. This is particularly the case for team sports such as football and rugby.

Clubs often charge fan’s large sums of money at the ticket booths. If the team runs into a period of bad form then the individual players may become subject to criticism or even abuse at the hands of disgruntled fans. This is because fans feel ‘ripped off’. Fans feel they’ve paid good money to watch a poor performance.

This constant pressure to perform leads to stress. Sports stars are human like the rest of us. Some have thicker skin than others. Many sporting stars are simply poor at managing stress. Therefore many a sporting star turns to alcohol in order to reduce stress levels. This ‘solution’ often results in addiction.

#2. Culture of binge drinking

In many sports there exists a culture of binge drinking. This culture exists both within fan circles and for the sporting stars themselves. A culture of binge drinking is well documented in team sports such as cricket, football and rugby. Intense training is often followed by even more intense sessions at the bar. Winning is often followed by heavy partying (and drinking!). This phenomenon was well documented following England’s reclaiming of the ‘Ashes’ in 2005 when Andrew Flintoff went on a four-day drinking bender.

#3. Culture of denial

Stars risk damaging their image and reputation is their drinking problem becomes public knowledge. Therefore sporting stars are less likely than the rest of the population to seek help for their addiction. This worry about being ‘outed’ for their alcoholism creates even more pressure to drink alcohol.

Sports stars who have developed a drinking problem are thus trapped in a vacuum of denial.

#4. Lifestyle

The sporting lifestyle creates a fertile environment in which alcohol can flourish. Sporting stars are commonly unable to manage the added stress their occupation brings. As a result, some sporting stars have turned to the bottle as a strategy for dealing with stress. Unfortunately, this lifestyle provides the perfect environment for alcoholism to develop. Stars earn lots of money from an early age. Stars often train in the morning. The rest of the day is filled with ‘free time’ to spend as they see fit. Some sporting stars fill this time by drinking alcohol.

#5. Sponsorship

The big brewing companies have gone to great lengths to associate alcohol with sports. Many fans associate sports with ‘going to the pub’. Many teams are sponsored by breweries such as Everton (with Chang Beer) and Celtic FC (with Tennent’s). Even the Champion’s League and World Cup receive most of their sponsorship money from global breweries (Heineken and Budweiser respectively). For many sports, these sponsorship deals create a culture of binge drinking for both fan and star alike.


I hope you enjoyed this post on alcoholism in sports. Remember to drink in moderation. If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism, be sure to contact Rehab 4 Alcoholism. With private alcohol rehab centres throughout the United Kingdom, we’re sure our advisors will find a suitable rehab centre near you.

Related posts