John Hartson has revealed that six top-flight managers in Scotland and England have asked him recently to help their players tackle gambling addiction.
The former Wales striker, 42, calls himself a “recovering gambling addict”.
Describing gambling as “rife” among footballers in the UK, Hartson said: “I’m thinking about setting up a gambling centre to help.
“Six Premier League [and Premiership] managers have phoned me in the last three months to help their players.”
Edinburgh-based Hartson does not suggest that players are gambling on football, a practice that is banned by the game’s authorities in the UK.
He says he has already taken players along to the meetings he attends and has spoken to Hearts striker Kyle Lafferty and his manager Craig Levein about the Northern Irishman’s gambling problems.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme: “Six years ago, when I needed help, when I was at my lowest ebb, somebody reached out to me.
“Now I’m in the best place of my life, financially, mentally, physically, because I got that help that I so wanted.
“Managers say, ‘I’ve got a player, John, he’s got a real bad problem. Can you speak to him? Can you take him to a meeting? Can you help him?’
“Absolutely, I’ll help him. I don’t care who he plays for, that makes no difference to me.
“It’s rife. I would say out of most football teams, at least half of the squad gamble, in my experience of 18 years playing at the highest level.”
Hartson, who counts Arsenal, West Ham and Celtic among his former clubs, believes his addiction began with playing fruit machines in a Swansea social club where he collected glasses as a young teenager.
He warns that addicts must make a lifelong commitment to abstaining from gambling because they themselves want to.
“It’s OK saying you want help but you have to have it within you to stick to the programme,” he said.
“You have to say, ‘I am in this for life.’
“A lot of addicts go [to places such as Gamblers Anonymous] for the wrong reasons. They go to satisfy their wife, because they are having a terrible time. They go to satisfy their parents and they give it a month and say they are all right now.
“The key to beating the addiction is you have to want to be there for yourself.
“When you’re a gambling addict you’ve got to come to a decision that that’s it for life.
“I can’t ever, ever have a bet again.”