Premier League finance

Wenger eyes level playing field

July 19, 2012
By ESPN staff

Arsene Wenger believes there is no defence for clubs spending money recklessly and hopes Financial Fair Play can bring a return to the days when the likes of Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Derby County won league titles.

Arsene Wenger
PA PhotosArsene Wenger wants a level playing field in English football

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Arsenal have long refused to pay the kind of exorbitant wages on offer at some of their rivals and, with the club having failed to win any silverware in recent years, criticism has followed. Indeed, Arsenal shareholders Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri recently wrote to owner Stan Kroenke to express their concern over the running of the club after Robin van Persie announced he would not sign a new contract due to a disagreement over the Gunners' direction.

Wenger, though, has always stood firm in his belief that clubs should live within their means, and UEFA has introduced Financial Fair Play to prevent what has become known as 'financial doping'. In addition, the 20 Premier League clubs are to hold a meeting in September to discuss measures to ensure a self-sustainable approach becomes the norm.

"We need first to see how effectively Financial Fair Play can be enforced before we can fully understand the impact but I believe it will make for a more exciting Premier League," Wenger told Time Out Hong Kong. "When you look at the history of England, there are Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Derby County who have all won championships. If that is possible again it will be even more interesting.

"If the rules are well introduced, it will be a massive advantage to Arsenal Football Club, of course, and we will be well positioned for that. I don't want to go into excuses but you want a business to be run properly and I believe that, to lose £150 million a year, you don't deserve a lot of credit to win a competition.

"I think that it is right that you balance your books, to accept the one basic principle for every company, and that's that you can spend the money which you make. That principle just seems to be a common sense and logical one."

He added: "I have been in football for a long, long time and I don't think just spending money is a target that is defendable. To spend the money on a top player is defendable, but just to spend the money is like you are worried.

"Our fans can be proud of the way we run this club, of the quality of the players we have and of the financial situation that is existing at the club. Rather than convicting this club, they have more reason to be proud of the whole situation here.

"We have built a team and a stadium in such a short space of time, and have a strong financial situation - and we have always survived at the top level."

Despite his frustrations, Wenger believes Arsenal are still able to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City on the field.

"I must say that not being able to match the spending of the richest clubs does not mean that you can't compete with them on the pitch," he said. "When I first came to England, this question did not exist. Every club was run within its resources.

"The Chelseas and the Man Citys are new problems, but with this new financial environment, what has not changed at all is our policy that we will be as ambitious as ever and spend the money that we have available, if possible in an intelligent and wise way.

"We have always spent money because we are ambitious for top-class players and, if you look at the history of our last 15 years, we have always had top-class players. It does not mean you can't win the title if you can't compete financially."