Having a flutter is part of culture, insists Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger maintains that gambling is a matter purely for the individual, but accepted that it can become a "negative" influence on players if taken to extremes. "I have had no gambling problems because we have never played cards," the Arsenal manager said. "If they did, I would ignore them completely because every individual is responsible for what he does with his money. If somebody gambles he does not tell me necessarily, but I do not feel we have had that type of problem."

Wenger's Middlesbrough counterpart, Steve McClaren, also assistant coach to the England team, maintains playing cards is "a natural thing". "Everybody plays cards," he said, "it's a natural thing to do in football. Everybody likes to go to the races, and they have their own pastimes to kill time. It's always been there. Obviously, lifestyle is very important. It's one thing we stress to our young academy players, to be professional both on and off the field, and lifestyle is a part of that."

Wenger confirmed there were no club rules at Arsenal prohibiting gambling. "They can play cards, but they do not play for big money," he said. "It is like listening to music, it can be a little bit of an attractive distraction. If it becomes a pressure on the player, it becomes negative. But that is down to how far you can let it go."

Wenger added: "As a manager, you feel responsible for the preparation on the day of the game, and of course you have to keep things under control. You cannot control everything. That is why I say it is down to everybody's responsibility. Gambling is permitted in [this] country, so you cannot complain that people gamble or bet. It is the culture of the country. But it looks like it has become an inter-national thing."

McClaren went on to point out that the temptations are many. "There are trappings out there and we try to guard our young players against that, give them the education, counselling and advice. We tell them to keep away from the things that could stop them realising their potential. That's something we believe in greatly. We go down the right route at this club."

The Bolton chairman Phil Gartside believes wages paid to players is relative to their status. Gartside opposes a salary cap - and he highlighted the wide spectrum of earnings among players.

"You look at players in our team; you get a very varied mix of salaries and bonuses," Gartside said. "I think the salary cap would be a difficult one to impose and I've never been in favour of that. I think self-regulation is the best way if possible.

"As far as players are concerned, they are entertainers. You look at the top entertainers, whether they are pop stars or actors, and salaries are relative. I think people are getting more realistic, and that has been reflected in financial results. Over 50 per cent of the clubs in the Premier League will show profit this year which is good news."

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