LONDON COLNEY (England): British society should worry more about people getting rich through family connections than footballers from poor families who reach the top through sheer ability, says Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
With some Premier League clubs paying salaries in excess of £50,000 a week, many people in Britain now feel that the money paid to top footballers in their 20s is out of control.
But Wenger believes that top players wages, reportedly described this week by Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy as obscene, are in fact hard earned by people from almost invariably poor backgrounds.
Sport is one of the few activities in the world where you can be the son of a worker and make a good living just because of your talent, Wenger said.
Nobody can cheat with that. You can be the son of Tony Blair, but if youre not good you dont play in a good team. In sport, we all basically come from poor families and many players can make a good living from it.
If you cut the possibilities of poor people to make a good living, I dont think its right in society.
Its better you cut those who have done nothing and earned a lot of money just because they are the son of (someone).
You take my team, or any team in the Premier League, they all come from poor families where you have to fight to become a good professional footballer.
You have to be intelligent, you have to be motivated and you have to be physically strong. Its not easy ... but thats what motivates the kids. First of all its a passion they love the game.
Dismissing the idea that footballers are in the game just for the wages, he said: You do not become a professional football player because you love money. Its not possible.
Ive not seen one who survives at that level without loving the game and the money is just a consequence of the quality they show.
After that, whether its too much or not enough, its not down to me to say.
Wengers basic argument is that, in an open economy, the market will decide a players value.
What is obscene or not is down to the society, not to the players, he said. Is it obscene that a guy who sells a record makes £70 million or £80 million? Its not down to us to judge.
But he added: What would be obscene would be to not have the right attitude to do your job at your best, considering the amount of money you make. All the rest is down to society where do you stop, when is it obscene or not?
If somebody decides, in any society in the world, that nobody can earn more than £2,000 per month, then okay. But if the system allows it, its not obscene.
Though some people in Britain fear that wealth can be a hazard to a young footballer, Wenger said: It can help him as well to have a better life. Its down to what you do with whats happening in your life.
As for the subject of gambling amongst footballers, following media reports of some playing for large sums, Wenger drew a line between a players private life and whether that affects his ability to perform in his public life.
Theres two things, he said. If what they do when theyre at work, with the team preparing for a match, is disrupted by the amount of money they lose you cannot accept that.
But he added: What they do in their private life, we have no control over. If a guy goes home and plays for £500,000 what can I do about it?
But when you feel the amount of money could be disruptive for the guy who loses, you have to stop it.
But he told reporters: We do not even play for money at our club. Reuters