Arsene Wenger blasts match-fixing
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Friday the Europol match-fixing investigation has swept through football like a "tsunami," and claimed "sport is full of legends who are in fact cheats."
The Europol report stated some 380 European matches were under investigation, including one 2009 Champions League game in England between Liverpool and Hungarian club Debrecen.
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez, who was in charge of Liverpool at the time of the Debrecen match, was asked if he would talk to Europol's investigators but said: "We were not involved in anything. If they have 300 games to analyze or to check, they have to do it, they will do it. We are really pleased with that.
"I think that, if they're doing an investigation, it will be fantastic if they find something. It's OK if they don't find anything. If not, even better. But it's important to clarify things. I'm quite happy with that."
While there has never been any suspicion of wrongdoing by anyone at Liverpool, which won the match in question 1-0, Wenger said the situation must act as a wake-up call to the English game.
"It was absolutely a surprise (to hear) the number of games that have been fixed. For me, it is a real tsunami and a real shock," the Arsenal manager said. "I cannot accept it. I always was a believer that there is a lot of cheating going on in our game and that we are not strong enough with what happens, nor with the doping, nor with the corruption of the referees, nor with the match-fixing.
"It is time that we tackle this problem in a very serious way and that people who cheat are punished in a very severe way as well. Sport is full of legends who are in fact cheats. We had a recent example again (in cyclist Lance Armstrong) and we all have that responsibility to fight against that."
Wenger said fixing a result goes against the very essence of sport.
"You cannot accept when somebody who works the whole week and decides to spend his money to go to a game, that you then cheat him because everything is decided before he gets to the stadium," the Frenchman added. "I cannot stand up for that. We cannot accept that."
The Gunners boss, however, said England has cause for major concern at the moment.
"I personally feel English football is clean of cheating 100 percent. I don't think referees are corrupt," he said. "It happened in Europe before, that is my belief, where referees were not always fair, there is history, especially in some countries, but you always have to be cautious."
Wenger has first-hand experience of the impact match-fixing can have from his time in charge of Monaco when French champions and 1993 European Cup winners Marseille were found guilty of corruption, relegated and thrown out of European competition by UEFA.
"I was faced with these problems before I knew what was going on, but people say 'come on, show us the proof,' it is very difficult to come out with that," he said. "If you support or manage a club, you spend sleepless nights thinking, 'How can I win the next game?' But in the end you discover it is useless because it is all done; you feel it is a waste of time."