Wenger attacks Uefa over 'untouchable' referees


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The Independent Sport

Arsène Wenger last night claimed Uefa has turned referees into "untouchable icons" and plans to appeal against his three-match European touchline ban for improper conduct.

The Arsenal manager was suspended and fined £33,800 (€40,000) following comments he made to Slovenian referee Damir Skomina after the club's Champions League last 16 exit to Milan earlier this month.

Wenger accused the officials of awarding the Serie A leaders, four points ahead of their closest challengers Juventus, too many free-kicks during a heated exchange and, although he has three days to decide on an appeal, a senior club official confirmed he is expected to travel to Geneva to defend his actions in person before a Uefa committee to try and avoid a third punishment in a year.

The 62-year-old was banned for one match for a rant at Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, who sent off Robin van Persie as the Gunners crashed out of the same competition to Barcelona in the Nou Camp last season.

He was then banned for a further two matches in August after Uefa deemed him in breach of his original suspension by sending messages from the stands to the bench during Arsenal's Champions League play-off first leg against Udinese.

Speaking moments before the decision was announced by Uefa, Wenger said: "I have played 200 games in Europe and suddenly people discover that I can be suspended.

"I don't know if I am and if I am then it is not justified and I will appeal straight away. Because I believe that they have transformed Uefa competition referees to be [impossible to speak to], untouchable icons, where you cannot even have a word. The only thing they understand after the game is the report.

"I believe that when you have 25 years consecutively in Europe you can still ask the referee that you can have some discussion with him. It is very difficult to understand. Last year I have been suspended a second time – the first time was not justified, the second time was a joke because they told me what to do and afterwards they told me, 'No, sorry, that was wrong'.

"So at the moment I have difficulties with Uefa and I can take what is wrong on my side but in these different situations I think they go a little bit overboard if they suspend me."

Wenger's ire towards Uefa extended to anger over the state of the San Siro surface for their first leg against Milan – a sentiment echoed by Barcelona following their quarter-final first-leg goalless draw on Wednesday.

"Barcelona made an official complaint to Uefa against the quality of the pitch but the pitch that we played on was 10 times worse," he said.

"When we played against Milan on the Wednesday night, they relaid the pitch on Monday afternoon – that should not be accepted. We lost and we were bad, we were poor.

"But the pitch was in a terrible state and it's more down to respect to the guy who pays for his ticket – 15, 20 or 50 pounds and wants to see Van Persie or Messi play football. I didn't know that it was possible [to complain officially]. I complained to the official at Uefa and he looks at you and says, 'Oh, thank you very much, I have a dinner tonight.'

"In every European managers' meeting in Geneva we bring this up. The quality of the pitch, the level of the grass, the length. I've played some games in England and it's important in the Premier League that you have real rigid rules about the quality of the pitch as it's part of respect about people who pay money."

Arsenal face Queen's Park Rangers at Loftus Road today with defender Laurent Koscielny available again after overcoming the tendinitis that forced his withdrawal during the warm-up prior to last weekend's victory over Aston Villa.