Football match-fixing: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger describes allegations as 'absolutely disastrous'

Two people have been charged as part of an investigation into match-fixing related allegations

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger warned match-fixing will probably never be completely eradicated across the globe and accepts lower league teams in England could be vulnerable.

Two men will appear in court in Cannock on Friday after being charged with conspiracy to defraud as part of an investigation into alleged football match-fixing.

The National Crime Agency said the men, who are alleged to be members of an international illegal betting syndicate based in Singapore, are among six people arrested earlier this week as part of an ongoing investigation.

Wenger has first-hand experience of the impact match-fixing can have from his time in charge of Monaco when French champions and 1993 European Cup winners Marseille were found guilty of corruption, relegated and thrown out of European competition by UEFA.

The Arsenal manager feels the hard work against such illegal actions must continue in earnest.

"Can it be eradicated completely? I am not sure. It is not only a concern for me, it is a shame," Wenger said.

"Once you don't know if everyone is genuine out there any more, that is something absolutely disastrous.

"I think we absolutely have to fight against that with the strongest severity to get that out of the game. 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, but I don't think that exists in the Premier League at all."

It is alleged that between November 1 and November 26, Chann Sankaran, a 33-year-old Singapore national, and Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan, a 43-year-old with dual UK and Singapore nationality "at City of Manchester and elsewhere conspired together with each other and others to defraud bookmakers by influencing the course of football matches and placing bets thereon".

The maximum sentence for this offence is 10 years' imprisonment.

It emerged on Thursday that a former Premier League footballer, Delroy Facey, was among those arrested held as part of the investigation.

The suspects are reported to include three current footballers.

The arrests were made following an investigation by the Daily Telegraph during which undercover reporters discussed the possibility of influencing the scores and outcomes of lower-league English games for as little as £50,000.

It is not believed that any Premier League sides are involved in the allegations.

Wenger is confident England generally has a robust approach to such illegal approaches.

"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 any more. It is a new problem that we all face," he said.

"I still think that 99.9 per cent, the English game is completely clean.

"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."

Wenger believes direct comparisons between the current issues and those at Marseille cannot be made.

"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.

"Personally, it was one of the most difficult periods in my life, but I think even in France now, the championship is completely clean."

Wenger recalled it was a difficult spell in his then fledgling managerial career.

"You know what it is when you're in a job like mine. You worry about every detail, about who to pick for the next game, to prepare the next game, and when you go to the game and you know all that is useless, it is of course a disaster," he said.

"I always felt that in the end the game will come clean again and the love for the game from everybody will take over."

Wenger added: "In that case, all the rest of the people are responsible for what they do and during all that period I can look back and say I behaved always like I wanted - what other people did is their problem."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes added: "I think everybody should be concerned about it.

"If people are trying to manipulate the system and have an affect on results, hopefully the safeguards in the system that are built in will catch these people out, because we have to protect this sport we all love.

"If there is any inkling that results aren't genuine and have been manipulated then that is a real worry for everybody. I'm sure everybody is working exceptionally hard to make sure these things don't become prevalent."

PA

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