Arsène Wenger has admitted he was shocked by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and has predicted the terms of Brexit could “dictate the future of the Premier League”.
Speaking to France Football, the Arsenal manager had his say on last month’s vote and has clear concerns about the divisions that have emerged in his adopted homeland.
“It worries me, it shocks me too,” admitted Wenger, who will celebrate his 20th anniversary as Arsenal manager in August.
“Nobody knows how exactly this is going to translate into a practical plan. Nobody really knows where we are going. But the shock, is that we discover that in England there is a majority of people who want to leave the European Union. It is even more flagrant when you live in London, the excellent example of cosmopolitan life.”
He added: “There are in fact two Englands – one that voted to remain and another that voted to leave. I spoke with a lot of financial analysts and not a single one of them knows exactly where we are headed. From a political perspective, England has lost its leader and at the moment she does not have another. This instability is worrying. Today, the English are in the dark on a political level. Europe could also falter.”
Wenger was then asked if the fall in the pound to its lowest level in more than 30 years immediately after the vote could affect English clubs’ spending in the summer transfer window.
“Yes, certainly. The players will see their wages come down a bit and the competition with Germany, of example, will be stronger,” he replied. “But that was one of the risks of the job and that worries me less. England still has a good amount of financial resources. There is a margin in terms of the money that will come in again this year.
“But, in my opinion, it is overwhelmingly in the long-term that there are questions to be answered. The way in which England will leave the European Union will dictate the future of the Premier League. If the league becomes less attractive, the broadcasters will offer less money for the rights, club revenues will decrease and the Premier League will suffer the consequences. There lies the problem.
“We thought that one day the best players from Real and Barça would say: ‘I also want to go to England because everyone is over there.’ All of that is now uncertain and Brexit is a spanner in the works. It will have consequences, not in the very short term, but in the long term, yes.”
Wenger also denied a suggestion that footballers may be given exemption against the potential ending of the freedom of movement laws if and when Britain leaves the EU.
“It is always intellectually difficult to defend such a principle. And to claim that football should be afforded even more privileges that do not apply to other activities when football is already very privileged,” he said.
“A lot of jobs are international. Why should we prioritise football? When a rule exists, it should apply to all professions otherwise there will always be demands that are made.”
The 66-year-old then cited the example of the late 1980s when English clubs were banned from European competition as an example of why the Premier League will be desperate to avoid any major upheaval, even implying that Brexit could have been a factor in England’s defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.
“When England left the European Championships for five years [from 1985], she worked hard to come back to the level of the others. I think that England needs Europe, it is indispensable. And Europe needs England,” he said.
“Don’t forget that it is the English who created this situation. It is for that reason today that everyone is a bit groggy. I ask myself if the England players [who lost to Iceland] were themselves not left a little groggy by the whole thing.”
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