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Arsene Wenger rues power of television over game


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has claimed football has "sold its soul" to television companies.

He accepted the importance of the money TV rights brought, but said Premier League bosses must intervene to ensure fixture scheduling was fair to clubs.

The Frenchman said: "The Premier League has to make sure that there is a bit more fairness in the schedules."

All five of Arsenal's games during January have been moved for the television cameras.

"I don't believe the Premier League has played, in the last month or the last year, a very fair role in the distribution of the fixtures," Wenger said.

Live domestic rights to top-flight English games for 2010-13 raised a total of £1.782bn and Wenger accepts that alterations to schedules to suit television are now part of the game.

However, he believes the sport's governing body must do more to limit the influence television companies have.

"We have sold our soul and we do not control our fixtures any more," said Wenger.

"It is the truth and I cannot say the television is wrong, but it is not normal that you can have a direct influence on the schedule through the television."

Arsenal's two most recent fixtures - the Premier League defeat at Fulham and the victory against Leeds in the FA Cup - were switched to Monday evenings while forthcoming matches against Swansea and Manchester United will each be played on a Sunday.

And the Gunners' fourth-round FA Cup game with Aston Villa has been moved from Saturday 28 January to Sunday 29 January because ESPN want to show the game.

As a result, their Premier League fixture with Bolton the following Tuesday, which had been in the schedule since June, was moved to Wednesday.

Wenger added that the viewing schedules, which now run from Friday night to Monday evening, can have a direct influence on games, with some clubs advantaged at the expense of others.

"Television is influenced by some clubs to choose the fixtures. Some clubs get advantaged by television," added Wenger.

"Is it Sky or is it ESPN? They have an influence there from the clubs directly and the Premier League should be a much bigger barrier than they are in front of that.

"I do not want to go personal on any club. I just think, when things are repeated, they are not a coincidence any more.

"In England, it is always very difficult to say what you feel about that but, I am not the only manager who thinks that and I think there is a real problem."

Wenger's remarks echo to an extent those of Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson, who complained in September that TV had too much control over the game.

But he conceded: "When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price."

The Premier League declined to comment.

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