Richard Dunne: 'My pal was offered £20k in bet scam'
Former Ireland star says temptation may be an issue for players not among high earners
As Joey Barton, and the beleaguered supporters of Athlone Town, know all too well, the issue of betting and football is no laughing matter.
Still, Richard Dunne is able to poke a bit of fun at himself when the topic of gambling in the game is thrown at the former Ireland defender, who is still enjoying a life of retirement outside of football at his family base in the south of France.
Dunne still has the record for the number of own goals (10) and red cards (8) in Premier League history, and he knows he'd have been a perfect recruit for a dodgy betting syndicate looking for a player to influence a game.
"I would have been an the ideal candidate because of my own goal record! You couldn't prove anything. I could have got away with anything," says Dunne with a smile, adding that he was never approached to influence a game for financial reasons.
But there's a serious tone to his voice when he speaks about former team-mate Barton, and another, un-named, ex-player who was the subject of an approach.
"I know someone who has, he was offered 20 grand to do something and it's ridiculous, you find it hard to believe that it goes on," says Dunne, who retired from playing in November 2015.
"It was a player that I know, it wasn't when he was playing for the same team as me.
"It was an off-the-cuff thing, someone said it to him and he laughed it off, you don't know how many different people that fella said it to.
"It wasn't in terms of losing the match, it was more like taking a card or kicking a ball out for a throw-in.
"It's so easy, in England it becomes less of an issue as the players, individually, are paid so much money anyway, for someone to offer them something it doesn't matter but if you come down the leagues, maybe in Ireland, it might be the opportunity to do it and that's when it does become a bit of a problem, if people let it creep into the game.
"You feel like football is incorruptible and it's the game that everybody loves but for certain people around the world, it's a way of making money. It's a way of cheating people."
Barton, who has just started an 18-month ban for betting offences which has effectively ended his career, played with Dunne at the beginning of Barton's career, at Manchester City, and the pair were reunited at QPR before Dunne quit, and Dunne has sympathy for Barton.
"I think it's 11 of the 20 Premier League clubs are sponsored by betting companies and the FA takes all the money off the betting companies," says the 37-year-old,
"It seems to me double standards that they are promoting it left, right and centre and then fining and banning people for taking part in it. It's either they're all in it together or they're not.
"For the players it's more or less harmless fun and it's like what every one of our friends do in the pub, or wherever, on a Saturday and you pick a few teams to see who wins.
"You look through Joey's bets and they're pretty harmless. They're not for massive amounts of money.
"Like he says, they are not match-fixing or anything like that, they are purely for his own entertainment and that's why it's disappointing that his ban has been so strict on him."
Dunne is enjoying life in France and isn't missing the day-to-day of the football life, but he retains an interest in matters back home and in England.
He admits that this season has been a disappointment for his former club, Manchester City, and feels that Pep Guardiola needs more time.
"It's not gone as quickly as people thought, it's ten years into this takeover and two league titles, you might have expected a little bit more but they are at period where they are improving and I think the results will come," says Dunne.
"For me, they have improved this year and the football is a lot better but the season will still be deemed a massive failure if they don't get into the Champions League; if they don't finish in the top four it will be a massive failure and there will be serious discussions about next season.
"Because of his track record, he (Guardiola) has always won trophies in his first season but it's very difficult in England, the leagues that he has been in before don't have the same competition as you have in England, where maybe six teams had a chance of getting into the top four this year.
"It has to be taken slowly, it was an ageing team that he took over, there were quite a few positions that needed replacing and he has done it slowly but he is still maybe four or five players short of where he wants to be."
Richard Dunne is Aviva's Junior Cup Ambassador and yesterday visited Sheriff YC ahead of the Aviva FAI Junior Cup final v Evergreen FC on May 13