Arsene Wenger has hit out at the ubiquity of betting advertising across football and in society after being asked about Joey Barton’s 18 month ban from the game this week.
The Burnley midfielder was punished by the FA after accepting charges that accused him of having placed 1,260 bets on football matches between 2006 and 2013.
He released a statement about it on his own website, but it looks as if this ban will more or less end his career.
The Arsenal manager’s opinion on the matter was sought at his press conference today, and as ever his views touched the wider issue rather than just Barton.
“It is a little bit I must say the general problem in our society,” he said.
“You you have everywhere, on every advert, bet … bet on Sky … bet on here and there, so you have not to be surprised when people get addicted to betting.
“It’s like smoking or alcohol, if you don’t want people to drink, you don’t sell alcohol.
“It’s the same if you don’t want people to bet, you don’t make betting official. But everywhere you incite people to bet.
“So out of a hundred people, five of them get addicted and bet, so if you don’t want to have that problem you forbid betting.
“That I would support personally, completely in society.”
Asked if football could do more about the issue, he continued, “No, I think football tackles the problem very well, but if you have some people who are addicted they are addicted, and they get punished for it.
“It’s natural, if you don’t observe the rules, you get punished.”
It’s becoming more and more clear that football and betting are now inextricably linked, ads at half-time, easier ways to bet via apps promoted by official club channels (not just Arsenal), and so on.
And when you think about Sky Bet, owned by the same people who broadcast football, and the way they operate it really doesn’t sit right. Imagine Sky Sports ‘sources’ breaking a transfer rumour, then urging people to bet on those rumours etc. It’s a very thin line.
Update: Thanks to Richard who emailed me to say Sky Bet was bought by a Japanese firm who retained the name.
There’s no excusing what Barton did, he knew the rules and broke them, but as Wenger said we shouldn’t be surprised that he developed a problem, and you can be quite sure he’s not alone.
Paul Merson infamously fell foul of a gambling addiction, and maybe there ought to be a bit more thought put into what football gets out of betting, rather than what the betting companies rake in from football fans.