Arsene Wenger has criticised the scheduling of this weekend’s football as his team’s FA Cup semi-final clashes with Chelsea’s crucial Premier League match with Manchester United.
The Arsenal boss described the FA Cup as “unique”, and believes giving the tournament priority in the television timetable would go some way to give back part of its past integrity and popularity. Arsenal’s attempt to retain the FA Cup continues against Reading on Saturday. But, the Wembley clash kicks off just ten minutes before the Blues are given the chance to all but wrap up the Premier League against third place Man Utd at Stamford Bridge, a match that is likely to overshadow Arsenal’s efforts a few miles away.
“Something should be done about it,” said Wenger. “I’m surprised they did not analyse that in television deals because basically two television channels who pay a lot of money for football, have conflicted interests in promoting games. That shouldn’t happen.”
It was announced in February by Sky and the Premier League that Chelsea vs. Manchester United would be Sky’s Saturday broadcast, and take the usual 5.30pm slot. The BBC had the choice of when they wanted to broadcast the FA Cup semi-final but opted to proceed with the original 5.20 kick-off time. Last season’s FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Wigan, which the Gunners won on penalties, was watched by approximately 10 million people, that number is bound to be much lower this time around. Frenchman Wenger thinks that this does nothing to help the image of a tournament, which most agree has declined in significance in recent generations.
“You would like it to be the unique competition that is played. Especially a semi-final and a final. You would want it not to conflict with other competitions. It is a surprise to me [that it goes up against a very big game]. There is a bit of conflict there that is difficult to understand.”