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Wenger claims television conspiracy

Arsene Wenger has claimed that some Premier League rivals are obtaining an unfair advantage in the fixture schedule because of the influence they exert on television companies.

Arsenal were annoyed this week that their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Aston Villa, to be screened live by ESPN, was scheduled for Sunday, January 29, meaning there is then one day less between their next two Premier League fixtures.

The Gunners also had only 48 hours between recent league games against QPR and Fulham, with Wenger claiming yesterday that his club were repeat victims.

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

"They are sold to television and television is influenced by some clubs to choose the fixtures.

"And some clubs get advantaged by television, if it's Sky or ESPN, because they have an influence there from the clubs directly."

Wenger called on the Premier League to provide "a much bigger barrier", arguing that television's role in the current system offers a temptation for clubs to make unfair requests.

"If you do not master any more the fixtures you have no control of your league," he said. "That's what is wrong. Because if, tomorrow, you buy a club and your best friend is the owner of Sky TV, you don't think you will tell him, 'Look, you put us on Friday night'. Or, 'You put us on Sunday night'. That's not fair. You don't think that is a temptation? Of course it is."

Although there is no suggestion that Tottenham have been trying to influence the television companies, it will not have escaped Wenger's notice that their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Watford has been selected by ESPN for Friday, January 27, giving them an extra day to prepare for their next Premier League match the following Tuesday against Wigan.

Irish Independent