Arsène Wenger has called for a blanket ban on gambling, denouncing it as an “immoral” and “indefensible” practice.
Joey Barton received an 18-month ban on Wednesday for breaching Football Association betting rules, prompting debate about football’s relationship with the gambling industry.
Yet the Arsenal manager has gone further, saying that betting should be forbidden in all its forms.
“I find it immoral that people study, go to universities and work day and night, and then somebody who does nothing plays the right numbers and win £100 million. How can you defend that?” Wenger said.
“People enjoy it but is it moral when a nurse in hospital doesn’t earn any money and the guy who plays the right numbers wins £100 million? How can you defend that? If you want to encourage a society based on merit, it is indefensible.”
The FA’s written reasons for Barton’s punishment revealed he placed 42 bets on 20 games which involved his own team. In a statement, the midfielder criticised the authorities for allowing a culture that encourages betting.
Barton said: “If the FA is serious about tackling gambling, I would urge it to reconsider its own dependence on the gambling industry. I say that knowing that, every time I pull on my team’s shirt, I am advertising a betting company.” Burnley’s shirts are sponsored by Dafabet.
Wenger also suggested the case hints at a wider issue: “It is a little bit, I must say, a general problem in our society. On every advert you have bet here and there. You cannot be surprised if people bet. If you don’t want people to drink, don’t sell alcohol. If don’t want people to bet, you don’t bet: you don’t make betting official. You incite people to bet. Out of 100 people five get addicted. If you don’t want that problem, you forbid betting, which I support completely in society.
“Football tackles the problem very well but if some people are addicted, they are addicted and they get punished for it.”
Arsenal have several official betting partners, having signed a deal with Betfair last summer shortly after their merger with Paddy Power. SportPesa is the club’s official turf accountant across Africa, while Tempobet penned a deal with the club last October to help extend their influence in Oceania.
Wenger is particularly sensitive to hints of financial corruption, having been deeply scarred by the infamous match-fixing scandal involving Marseille and their owner Bernard Tapie.
Wenger’s Monaco twice finished runners-up to Marseille in the early 1990s before the scandal was uncovered, with the Arsenal manager describing the period as “the most difficult” of his life.
Then Valenciennes manager Boro Primorac, who has been Wenger’s lieutenant for more than two decades, was a crucial whistle-blower in the case and his willingness to challenge the authorities won Wenger’s trust and admiration.