• Premier League

Match-fixing not a problem in England - Wenger

ESPN staff
November 30, 2013
Wenger: No match-fixing problem in England

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes it may be impossible to completely eradicate match-fixing from football, but he is convinced the English game is mostly clean of any corruption.

Two men were charged with rigging matches in England on Thursday, with a handful of both players and ex-players being linked to the inquiry.

The news brings back painful memories for Wenger after his Monaco side were caught up in the Marseille match-fixing scandal that hit French football in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Gunners boss, however, has long been convinced that the English game does not have a match-fixing issue to address, yet he admits it may be impossible to stamp out isolated incidents.

"Can it be eradicated completely? I'm not sure," he said. "Is it a concern for me and you who love the game? Certainly yes. It is a shame once you don't know if everyone is genuine out there, that's something absolutely disastrous.

"You have to fight with the strongest severity to get it out of the game. Maybe the lower leagues are more under threat because it's more anonymous, there is less money [being paid to players] and it is easier to buy people. I don't think that it is a problem in the Premier League at all.

"I don't believe that in England people fix matches, but we live in an international world and you cannot stop it at the border. I believe 99.9 percent of the English game is completely clean and I hope this is an isolated incident.

"When you see the happiness of the players when they score goals, the passion of the fans in the lower divisions, I can't believe there is a match-fixing problem in England."

Reflecting on the incidents surrounding Marseille during his time as Monaco boss, it is clear that the anger and pain he felt still has an effect on him.

"Personally, it was one of the most difficult periods in my life," he said. "It was a period when European football was not clean for different reasons.

"Now in France, the championship is completely clean, but when you are in a job like mine, you worry about every detail -- who to pick for the next game. But when you go to the game and you realise all that is useless, then it is a disaster.

"When it was happening in France or in Europe, I always felt in the end the game would come clean again and the love of the game would take over. People are responsible for what they do. During that period, I can look back and say I behaved like I wanted. What other people did is their problem."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho echoed those sentiments later on Friday, saying he finds the idea of anyone who loves the game seeking to manipulate a match as incomprehensible.

"It's very hard for me to understand," Mourinho told his prematch news conference ahead of Sunday's home game against Southampton. "The match-fixing is something that doesn't go into my brain. I simply don't understand how it is possible for somebody to go on to a football pitch and participate in match-fixing.

"I always believe that we all are in love with the game. In some jobs people have a job because they need their job, but they were not born for that and they do it because they have to live and they have to provide for their families.

"Football is not that kind of job. Football is the kind of job that you go into it because since you were a kid you were in love with it. Since you were a kid you were kicking a ball or you were watching and eating football on TV. It's a job with a passion.''

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