Wenger demands life bans for players found guilty of corruption
Saturday 05 April 2008
In France they believe that Arsène Wenger was cheated out of two French titles with Monaco because of match-fixing and yesterday the Arsenal manager responded to The Independent's revelation about corruption by demanding that any offender is banned for life.
In the early-1990s Wenger's Monaco team were the victim of corruption in favour of Bernard Tapie's Marseilles – an experience that affected Wenger profoundly. He said that his faith in English football was still strong and that he believed the Premier League was clean. "It is surprising news and bad news," Wenger said. "I am convinced that if it is proven they should be banned for life, with no appeal. I believe that the most important thing is that the game is clean. I can't believe it has happened in the Premier League but, if it has, there is no excuse. It's not down to human nature – everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions."
It was the practice of spread-betting – gambling on the amount of corners, cards or throw-ins that Wenger agreed posed the greatest threat to the game's integrity. "If you say to a player that you will bet [and fix] the first corner, the guy can say: 'OK corner. What is a corner? It will not influence the game.' So it's an incitement [to take the bribe] a little bit.
"I'm not a gambler, I'm not interested in betting at all. When it becomes too subtle, it can delude the responsibility of the guy who is involved in it. 'For the first throw-in, I put the ball for a throw-in.' I don't think it is a problem [in England] but I am surprised by the news. Match-fixing is horrible. I never could believe that it could happen here. I have personal experience of that [with Tapie]. But not for gambling. For corruption."
Wenger said that he did not believe gambling had ever been a problem among his Arsenal players. It was his former captain Tony Adams, a reformed alcoholic, who established the Sporting Chance clinic which treated the player who took the bribe. Wenger said that the popularity of betting in Britain had not, in the past, caused the game to be corrupted.
"It's part of the culture but it didn't stop this country from having a rather clean league until now," he said. "So, I don't think it's down to me to question the culture because historically in England it always existed. I feel this league is fair. Until now I never had a feeling it was not fair but if that is proven that the guy has sold the game for £50,000 it is a big surprise to me.
"It is an addiction as much as anything else. When you have 100 people, 90 or 95 can deal with the addiction, they play reasonably. And five of them maybe they become crazy and they are ready to sell their wife, their furniture."
The card school on the team bus has been superseded by personal DVD players and laptops. No bad thing, according to Wenger, who said that losing money to team-mates was never conducive to team spirit. "When I was a player we played cards always and for a little bit of money but already at that time when the money became too high and had influence on some players. If you go into a game and you have already lost your bonus before you play it affected the players mentally."
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