Arsene Wenger with interesting views on challenges for Premier League in this now very changed world
Arsene Wenger is always worth listening to.
Over two decades he did a remarkable job at Arsenal, one of the most influential managers in the Premier League era.
Despite delivering so much success (20 consecutive top four finishes, winning the double in his first full season, winning three PL titles, never out of the top two in first eight full Premier League seasons, winning the FA Cup seven times including three in four years immediately before his very final season), Arsenal fans were determined to force him out of the club.
You wonder where Arsenal would have been without Arsene Wenger, his brilliant management success allowing them to fund their new 60,000 stadium, as well as success on the pitch.
There must be plenty of embarrassed Arsenal fans now, having forced Wenger out because they were sick of ‘only’ finishing top four and playing in the Champions League every season and regularly winning the FA Cup, they now find themselves ninth in the Premier League ahead of restart, a massive 42 points off the top and zero chance of Champions League football.
In this interview, Arsene Wenger has spoke about the serious issues now faced by English clubs in the post-virus environment, racism, the idea of changing to a summer season, lost revenues, wages, plus whether a super league is on the cards.
On how Covid-19 has changed football:
“I would say it has made the weak clubs weaker and the strong clubs stronger. And it has made us realise that what is taken for granted can be interrupted at any moment…and realise as well that we could live without it [football]. It’s a very important part in our lives, but health came first and it gave us a good opportunity…to see the weak points of the structure of the game.”
On whether football will be any different 6 months down the line compared to six months ago:
“No. It will not be any different…it will be like before. Firstly, people forget quickly. Secondly, once you’re in the competition everybody will think about the team, how to survive and how to win the next game and how can I get the best players and have I enough money to buy the best players.”
On the future of football:
“We live in a world today that’s focussed on grouping the elite. You know well the case in England. In England the leagues are dying. The Premier League will survive. I don’t worry for the Premier League. You worry more for the out of 92 clubs, you have 65 clubs who lose money and behind closed doors they open the stadium – they lose money to play the game. So it is where football has to re-think how to we help these clubs to survive…because we need an elite but we need as well a basis where young players have a chance to play and where we have to get these people to survive.”
On Premier League finances, lost revenue and player wages:
“Because most of them [clubs] live on the edge. When I managed Arsenal football club, the biggest reproach I got was not to spend enough money. But we were in a strong, healthy financial situation even if it limited potential to spend money. Because of the competitive edge of the Premier League, everyone lives on the edge as well. We calculate it here that overall football will lose 20% of its income. Football makes, say, 45 billion turnover in the world – the loss will be 10 to 14 billion. That is approximately the amount of money that football will lose. If you look at the wages structure in most of the clubs it’s between 60 and 80% of the turnover. That means only the players wages can sort that problem out.”
On revenue generated by broadcast contracts – has the bubble burst? Has it gone?:
“We don’t have to live in a different world. We have to live in a different world for a while. If we have to confine the game – the loss is estimated to 30 billion, then you have to live in a different world for a long time.”
When asked if football will lose thousands of clubs in the fallout of Covid-19:
“I believe so…because there’s too many clubs in trouble, and there’s not enough money there to help them enough to survive. And then you get to a stage where you get some clubs who have professional players, that may not be capable anymore to be professional. We will lose plenty of clubs – this is for sure.
“When you look at football you have people who want to see the top of the top quality games – they want to see Real Madrid, for example, against Man City. And after they want to watch their local club. But this support has gone down regularly everywhere. The financial crisis we face now has aggravated that problem and maybe because in the top leagues we pay so much money…it pull always the wages up to the maximum in the lower leagues and when they face less income they die, or they suffer.”
Asked “Is football inherently racist?”:
“No. I would say football is by essence anti-racist. Why? Because you know that no matter if you’re the son of the King of England or if you’re black or white or red – if you’re good you play. And I would even say that football is an example of how the whole of society should work, because it’s only based on merit and quality. If you’re good enough, you play. Inside the game, there’s no racism. Around football and in the stands it happens and we’ve seen it again in England with the national team away games.”
On whether black ex-players or black coaches are being denied places at the highest level in England:
“Maybe, that’s what I hear. If it is like that it’s a shame. In France we created the concept of positive discrimination but that means you give positions to people because they’re not given enough chances – but this is also discrimination because people who are better may not get the job. So you want people to give the same chances to everybody, no matter where you’re from or how you look, but as well, not to create another discrimination because of artificial solutions you want to find.
“I had former players like Patrick Vieira, who is [doing] a fantastic job in Nice. Sol Campbell is a manager – I hope he will make it at the top level and I heard he’s doing very good work. It’s a kind of humiliation to say you just got this position because of where you’re from. Personally, I fight for the merit. I played games in England with people from 11 different countries. Honestly, after the game when I was told I didn’t even know. Because I just chose the players because of their quality. That is where football can be ahead in society and show what kind of way we all have to follow.”
On whether a structured European ‘Super-League’ is more likely to happen now than at any other time in the past decade when it’s been discussed:
“Well, it will happen at some stage. Will that accelerate the movement? Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll face another big problem in the game…the calendar. It’ll mean we add more games. How far can we go before this world explodes because there’s not enough dates anymore to play the number of games you want to play for the elite.
“Being completely crazy, at some stage the super league will come in. And because I’m completely crazy – I think the only way to sort it out is to regroup the international games, to merge them over a shorter period at the end of the season.”
Asked “Why don’t we make the game in the northern hemisphere a summer sport in the same way Rugby league did?”
“I agree with this idea, because it’s the best way to play on the calendar year in the whole world at the same time. We had a good opportunity during this period to be audacious and to think forward…but we are as well a conservative world.”
On whether football competitions should be restarted in these circumstances or delayed:
“No, we could have started next year and played the season from February till November.”
“It is safe. It’s the best possible solution to finish the season that was available, you know. And hopefully, what I pray for is we can get back. Because in England, more than anywhere else in the world, the fans live the game. Every corner is played by the fans.”
When asked about his previous comments that Premier League Clubs are at a disadvantage restarting:
“I know what I wanted to say. I will miss the supporters more in the Premier League than any other country in the world. Because that’s where the fans live and re-live every tackle, every corner. It’s really synchronised with the game.”
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