• Premier League

Wenger stunned by match-fixing 'tsunami'

ESPN staff
February 8, 2013
Arsene Wenger is concerned for the game's future © Getty Images

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has admitted he has been stunned by the match-fixing storm that has rocked football in recent days and has claimed the revelations could overwhelm the sport.

After a Europol investigation uncovered that hundreds of matches may have been fixed in a wide-scale betting scam, the Arsenal manager pulled few punches as he was asked to address the issue of match-fixing.

His passion for the subject is motivated by a personal grievance, as his Monaco side were caught up in the French match-fixing scandal involving Marseille in the early 1990s and Wenger called for severe punishment to players and referees found guilty of accepting bribes to fix matches.

"I was completely surprised by the number of games that were revealed to have been fixed and for me this is a real tsunami (for football)," said Wenger. "I cannot accept this. I was always a believer that there is a lot of cheating in the game and that we are not strong enough on what is happening.

"First doping, then the corruption of referees and now match-fixing. It is time we tackled these issues and people who cheat need to be punished in a very severe way. Sport is full of legends who are, in fact, cheats and we had a recent example of that. We all have a responsibility to fight against that.

"You cannot accept that someone who works a whole week to get the money to go to a game and you cheat him because all is decided before he gets to the stand. I cannot stand up for that and I cannot accept that."

Wenger admits the frustration he felt when his Monaco side were undone by fixed games against Marseille still lingers, but he remains convinced that English football remains clean of match-fixing.

"You spend sleepless nights worrying how to win the next game, what kind of team you can pick and then you discover that what you do is pointless as it is already decided and it is all a waste of time and energy," he reflected. "I discovered this to be true over the course of two of three seasons and it is difficult to take, but it is very hard to come up with the proof.

"You can have your own belief and I knew what was going on, but when people ask to show the proof, it is very difficult to do that. I discovered what was happening (with Marseille) over the course of two or three seasons, but it is very tough to prove that.

"In sport in general, cheating is a problem, but it is not at all a problem in the English game. That is why we are so shocked by the news this week. It is not a perfect world here, but match-fixing is not a problem in this country. I know the English media would be very harsh against that and people know that as well."

Meanwhile, Wenger has emerged as an unlikely opponent to the financial restrictions that were approved by Premier League chairman at a meeting in London on Thursday.

The Arsenal boss has been a long-time supporter of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules that are designed to force clubs to work within the budgets they generate from their own business, but he rejects the suggestion that the internal financing of Premier League clubs needs to be controlled.

"I am personally for financial fair play in the way that companies and clubs manage themselves with their own resources and for the rest I believe in freedom on how you manage your finances," he added. "I am not in favour of Brussels-style society controlled by complicated rules. Every company should manage their company as they want to do it."

Wenger also confirmed that the process to replace the departing Liam Brady as Arsenal's youth development chief is underway after the Irishman announced he would be stepping down from his role at the end of next season.

The Arsenal manager revealed that Gunners legend Patrick Vieira, who is currently working as Football Development Executive for Manchester City, and 'any of his former players' could be contenders to land post he described as 'crucial' to the club's future.

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