Wenger fears for in­tegrity of Bri­tish foot­ball

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

MATCH- FIX­ING can­not be erad­i­cated but English soc­cer in 99.9 per­cent clean, Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger said yes­ter­day shortly be­fore two men were re­manded in cus­tody af­ter be­ing charged with con­spir­acy to de­fraud.

The ar­rest on Thurs­day of two men al­leged to be part of an il­le­gal bet­ting syn­di­cate based in Sin­ga­pore af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Na­tional Crime Agency ( NCA) has raised doubts about the in­tegrity of the game.

No Pre­mier League matches are thought to have been tar­geted, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, the fo­cus be­ing on the lower reaches of English foot­ball, but Wenger is con­cerned.

“I don’t be­lieve that in Eng­land peo­ple fix matches, but we live in an in­ter­na­tional world and you can­not just stop it at the bor­der any­more,” Wenger said at a news con­fer­ence.

“It’s a new prob­lem that we all face.

“I still think that 99.9 per­cent, the English game is com­pletely clean. I hope that (the re­cent charges) are an iso­lated in­ci­dent.”

“When you see the hap­pi­ness of the play­ers when they score goals, even in the lower di­vi­sions, the pas­sion of the fans when I was at Bar­net for ex­am­ple, I can’t be­lieve there is a match-fix­ing prob­lem in Eng­land.

“Can it be erad­i­cated com­pletely? I’m not sure. Is it a con­cern for me and you who love the game? Cer­tainly yes.”

Wenger said match-fix­ing needed to be fought around the world to save the sport from a bleak fu­ture.

“Once you don’t know any­more if ev­ery­one is gen­uine out there, that is some­thing ab­so­lutely dis­as­trous,” he said.

“I think we have ab­so­lutely to fight against that with the strong­est sever­ity to get that out of the game.”

While Wenger feels the huge salaries of Pre­mier League play­ers makes match-fix­ing in the top ech­e­lons un­likely, he said the lower leagues could be vul­ner­a­ble.

“Maybe the lower di­vi­sions are a bit more un­der threat be­cause it is a bit more anony­mous; there is less money so it is eas­ier to buy peo­ple,” he said.

Wenger has first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of the ef­fects of the prob­lem de­scribed as a “can­cer” by FIFA vice- pres­i­dent Jim Boyce, hav­ing been at Monaco when Mar­seille were rel­e­gated from the French first di­vi­sion in 1994 fol­low­ing a match-fix­ing scan­dal.

“That was much more se­ri­ous,” he said. “It was a pe­riod where Euro­pean foot­ball was not clean, for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but I hope we have that be­hind us.

“It was one of the most dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods in my life. But I think even in France now, the cham­pi­onship is com­pletely clean.” – Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.