Wenger hits out at TV fixtures

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claims football has “sold its soul” to television, but maintains the Barclays Premier League has failed to take a strong enough stance against the broadcasters’ demands over fixture changes.

Live domestic rights to top-flight English games for 2010-13 raised a total of £1.782 billion, while overseas income from 212 countries amounted to £1.4bn, a major increase on previous deals.

With such staggering amounts coming into the member clubs from the broadcasters, Wenger accepts altered schedules are now part and parcel of the modern game. However, he maintains the governing body must do more to limit the impact those changes have on clubs throughout the league – with the recent drawn out festive fixtures a case in point.

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“We have sold our soul and we do not control our fixtures any more,” said Wenger, who takes his side to Swansea tomorrow. “The Premier League has to make sure there is a bit more fairness in the schedules. I don’t believe in the last month or the last year, the Premier League has played a very fair role in the distribution of the fixtures.”

Arsenal’s FA Cup fourth-round tie against Aston Villa has now been scheduled for Sunday 29 January, live at 4pm, which in turn led to next week’s Premier League fixture at Bolton being pushed back to Wednesday 1 February, and then the Gunners host Blackburn at 1pm on Saturday 4 February.

Rivals Manchester City, who will have played at Everton on the Tuesday evening, host Fulham at 5.30pm on the Saturday, while Chelsea and Manchester United clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 5 February, and then Liverpool host Tottenham in Monday night’s live game. Wenger maintains the demands of the viewing schedules – which now span from a Friday night to Monday evening slots – can have a direct influence on games.

He said: “Television is influenced by some clubs to choose the fixtures. Some clubs get advantaged by television.

“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.”