Rugby league must be careful to ensure its relationship with the gambling industry does not normalise betting for addicts, says new Rugby Football League president Tony Adams.

The ex-England footballer, 52, set up the Sporting Chance addiction charity having been through his own issues.

Both the league structure and Challenge Cup competition are currently sponsored by bookmakers.

“It’s got to be a responsible industry,” Adams said.

“It will take time to maybe detach itself from sport. I’m not anti-betting, I just choose not to do it because I know the way that it affects me.

“I know we’re only talking 10% of the population so 90% can take it or leave it. My nan has a bet on the Grand National and loves it once a year but for the addict it’s dangerous.

“You’ve got to be careful you don’t normalise it for the addict.”

Adams battled with gambling and alcohol addiction during his long career with Arsenal and England. He won 66 caps and captained his country and led the Gunners to European and domestic glory.

Much of his success came after spending 57 days in prison in 1990 having been convicted of drink-driving.

While alcohol, built around a culture of socialising, was a major concern during his playing days, Adams believes the abundance of free time has seen gambling become a bigger issue among footballers.

“It’s now 70% gambling,” the former centre-half said. “It’s a bit of an epidemic in football.

“We’ve swapped poisons; we call gambling the silent addiction.”

Proud president

Despite being born in Essex, far from the rugby league heartlands, and having spent his career playing in north London, Adams is an admirer of the sport.

He sees similarities in the personalities involved, the physicality and the camaraderie within teams, and player backgrounds within his own sport and the 13-man code.

Spreading the word about player welfare, mental health and work surrounding addiction are the main focuses for Adams in his new role.

“We’re perfect bedfellows really,” Adams added.

“I was invited in to Warrington Wolves in 2011 by (former coach) Tony Smith and I gave them a lifestyle seminar.

“They quite liked it and they totally came on board. They’re very active in the player welfare department.

“For a few of the guys, the wheels had really come off in rugby through different drugs of choice, a lot of Tramadol, a lot of painkillers, prescribed drugs, more than the football world were used to at that stage.

“We’ve helped near on 400 rugby league players since then. They have taken our education and our one-to-one therapy and they use our clinic and our helpline.

“It’s pretty fantastic. I’m very practically involved and very proud to be president of the RFL.”

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