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Soccer -- Wenger predicts even bigger Champions' League

HDN | 10/22/1997 12:00:00 AM |

Enlargement: The league began with eight teams in the 1992-93 season whereas this season it comprises of 24 teams Reuters London- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the European Champions' League could soon include the best three or four teams from the top countries -- because of the demands of television. The Frenchman, who has steered Arsenal to the head of the English league, also said he was not too unhappy his side were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the first round earlier this month. "To

  • Enlargement: The league began with eight teams in the 1992-93 season whereas this season it comprises of 24 teams

    Reuters

    London- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the European Champions' League could soon include the best three or four teams from the top countries -- because of the demands of television.

    The Frenchman, who has steered Arsenal to the head of the English league, also said he was not too unhappy his side were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the first round earlier this month.

    "To be honest, the only European competition that really interests me is the Champions' League," he said.

    "The UEFA Cup is a consolation prize and the Cup Winners' Cup has been destroyed. Who plays in that now? Nobody.

    "Even when a team wins their domestic cup, they don't enter the competition because they can get into the Champions' League by finishing second in their league.

    "Barcelona are a perfect example. They won the Spanish Cup, but will Chelsea play them some time this season?

    "No, because Barcelona are playing in the Champions' League. The fact is, the Champions' League is all-important.

    "It is turning into a European League and over the next three or four years I think that will become more and more clear.

    "And if the current system changes from six groups of four to four groups of six, that will mean 10 matches for each team just to reach the quarterfinals. That's almost a mini-championship right there."

    Wenger, who has experience coaching in France and Japan as well as England, has no doubts about further expansion plans for the Champions League which began with eight teams in the 1992-93 season.

    In 1994-95 that number increased to 16 teams and this season it comprises 24 teams.

    "It's all about money," he says. "More games equal more money through TV revenue and I think the next few years will see not just two, but three or four teams from the top countries competing against each other. It's what television wants -- big teams in big matches. That is why the Champions' League was introduced.

    "TV companies did not want to see the likes of Real Madrid going out in the first round, now that's not a worry because of the group system."

    But echoing the words of former European Footballer of the Year Kevin Keegan from last week, Wenger warned against too much football.

    "The only thing they have to be careful of now is overkill. Too many games and the public may lose interest. I see that in France already where they have difficulty in selling the UEFA Cup games because of lack of interest while German TV shows the highlights in the middle of the night.

    "Juventus v Manchester United, Newcastle v Barcelona, these are the games the public wants to see.

    "I think there will always be a domestic programme for the big clubs, but as time goes on the squad system will come more and more into play as they regularly make assaults on two fronts -- at home and in Europe."

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