Arsene Wenger believes the coronavirus pandemic will exacerbate football’s gaping inequalities and could have serious financial implications for clubs lower down the leagues.
Football has taken a three-month hiatus in most countries around the world, causing a financial black hole which Wenger, as Fifa’s head of global football, is worried will only be absorbed by the biggest clubs.
“The strong will be stronger and the weak will be weaker,” Wenger told The Athletic. “The difference could be augmented. If you look at the economic predictions, it looks like all productivity will be down between 8 to 10 per cent across Europe. The central bank of Europe predicts already that next year, we will be positive again. I think it will not change a lot economically for the top clubs. What is terrible is that the lower leagues will suffer a lot. The real problem of the game is not the top level. The real problem of our game is the lower leagues.”
The Premier League makes its return on 17 June, and the former Arsenal manager believes the restrictions of playing football in a pandemic – behind closed doors – will also favour the top teams.
“One of the first things I noticed is the lower teams without fans have a bigger handicap than the higher teams,” Wenger said. ”In Germany, for example, you can see that in home games against bigger opponents, there is an element missing — that tension, that belief, that motivation that is coming from outside the pitch.
“You see that the internal motivation of the club is not big enough against the big clubs. The bigger teams have more quality, so a way to reduce the difference between the teams is, of course, to have the support of your fans and get that intensity into the game. Let’s not forget it influences the referee and the opposition team as well.”