Premier League – Wenger backs overseas matches

EurosportFri, 08 Feb 18:18:00 2008

Arsene Wenger has became the first major club manager to express his support for the Premier League’s plan to stage competitive matches in cities around the world.

FOOTBALL Arsene Wenger Arsenal - 0

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The league has proposed that clubs play one additional fixture overseas from 2011 in a 39-game season.

“My first instinct is to not be against the initiative,” the Arsenal manager said.

“You have to accept that the Premier League is not just ruling day by day — people are thinking how we can improve the game.

“It is only one idea. It will only work if people respect the games; the quality of organisation, the competitive aspect of the games and the fairness of the game have to be respected.

“To promote the league and keep it the best in the world is a good idea. These priorities have to be considered and if they are, why not?”

Wenger played down concerns among fan groups, who have argued that foreign matches will further disrupt the link between clubs and the communities they are rooted in, saying the concerns of overseas-based fans had to be considered as well.

“Ninety percent of people who love the Premier League have no access to the games,” Wenger said.

“Friendlies will not keep people interested in the game. It is not respecting people who love the game to say you can watch it on television but not live.

“I don’t want to be against it just because it is a new idea.”

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson criticised the Premier League’s lack of consultation with managers and players before announcing its plans to take fixtures abroad.

Ferguson said those carrying the extra workload should have had an input before the ideas were made public.

“What disappoints me is that [United chief executive] David Gill phoned me and said ‘keep this quiet, we are going to discuss it’ and then it’s all over the papers,” Ferguson said.

“They can’t keep their mouths shut down there.

“I think if they are going to do these things they should have enquired and had a discussion with managers and players before they come out with all this stuff and make an issue of it.

“This should be discussed internally by clubs before they come to this position we are in today.

“Until I see and speak to David Gill and see more about it I have really have nothing to say.”

WHAT THE OTHER MANAGERS THINK

Kevin Keegan – Newcastle

“I have seen the press and a lot of people have been negative, but I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. From what I understand, it has been well thought out. It is a 39th game. The trouble with a lot of people is when something new comes into the arena, they want to find reasons to knock it. I can think of just as many reasons to say ‘Wow, it’s good’.”

Roy KeaneSunderland

“It’s great. Change is good but that depends who you are playing in that extra game. If it’s one of the top four, I might argue. The Premier League has been brilliant and Richard Scudamore spoke brilliantly last night. They are looking at the proposals and do everything properly. It’s three years away and I think we should all be trying to be positive about it.”

Steve Coppell – Reading

“It’s good, it’s innovative. We are the prime league in the world at the moment and I heard on the TV this morning that English Premier League football is seen in 200 countries across the world. So we have to do something to keep it in everybody’s eye-line and I can only presume that the world-wide TV contract is up for renewal.”

Harry Redknapp – Portsmouth

“I said months ago I could see us playing abroad, I could see them all taking their teams, getting more and more foreign owners. We will probably end up playing one game a year in England and the rest around the world. It would be like the Harlem Globetrotters! … It’s money making. Why do these people buy football clubs? Owners of clubs used to be the local butcher, baker, candlestick maker. That was their team. It’s all about investment for these people. They buy clubs, they get a good investment and they want a return on their money and that’s why they buy the club – it’s not because they love the club.”

Steve Bruce – Wigan

“It’s bad enough with international friendlies, let alone going overseas. I read the other day that games are going out to 22 or 23 countries, it’s quite unbelievable, it gets everywhere. So I wouldn’t be surprised, although there will be a few irate people. Can you imagine going to Fergie and telling him ‘by the way, you’re not playing at home this week, you are playing in Japan’? I’d like to see it!”

Roy Hodgson – Fulham

“It is obviously a marketing thing. I would have to have a clearer picture of what is behind this marketing idea – I would have to find out more about it. One extra game of football a year, as long as the calendar can be sorted out, that doesn’t seem to be a dealbreaker – but I have no real opinions at the moment on whether it is a good deal or a bad deal.”

Gareth SouthgateMiddlesbrough

“Is it April 1? I find it highly unlikely it would happen. I wouldn’t think it would be a realistic proposition.”

Avram Grant – Chelsea

“I think it is an interesting idea. Everybody likes the Premier League, including many places in the world. I can see why people are concerned but many people are happy about it too. I am a big fan of the NBA and they decided to play in Europe. That had positive and not so positive signs. I am sure if the Premier League decide to play these games, they will fix it so that it is not a big problem and they will think about it.”

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