Wenger: financial crisis will alter game


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Arsène Wenger believes a financial cataclysm will soon engulf Europe, in months, if not weeks, finally affecting a sport which has so far appeared immune to the economic depression provoked by the banking crisis. Such is Wenger's focus on football he sounded disappointed that the day of fiscal reckoning had not already arrived to create a level playing field in this season's Champions League, but he felt it would soon do so.

"I am convinced that Europe will go into a huge financial crisis within the next three weeks, or three months, and maybe that will put everything into perspective again," he said yesterday. "Football is not untouchable. We live by people going to the stadiums and from [sponsors] advertising to people who buy products. All our income could be a little bit under threat."

Wenger, who earned an economics degree at the University of Strasbourg, was speaking on the eve of Arsenal's first Champions League group tie in Dortmund tonight. He added that at present there was a top tier of clubs whose financial resources gave them a huge advantage. "I believe this season that I see two teams that are above the rest – Real Madrid and Barcelona – and the rest have to catch up during the season. Barça and Real Madrid have much more financial power than they had 14 years ago [when Wenger first took Arsenal into the Champions League] because they have individualised their TV rights. So they, at the moment, with teams like Man City and Chelsea [financed by billionaires], can take who they want."

The financial disparity between Arsenal and a quartet of super-rich clubs was not the reason Wenger (below) was reluctant to talk up Arsenal's chances of finally winning a competition they have qualified for every season since 1997, but only once reached the final of, in 2006.

"I still feel our best XI is a match for anyone and I wouldn't rule out [winning the competition] yet, but it's too early to speak about that," he said. "Saying that would raise a lot of scepticism at the moment and I don't think anyone would believe it."