Wenger against ban on signing Under-18s
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has become a rare voice against blocking the trade of Under-18 footballers, defending his club's policy of signing the best young players from around the world and claiming the rules should actually be relaxed.
The French coach criticised the current rules which make it difficult for English clubs to sign youths from Asia, South America and Africa.
Wenger claims that stopping a practice that Leeds chairman Ken Bates has described as "baby farming" would actually put the players at more risk and they would likely fall prey to unscruplious agents.
FIFA are determined to clean up the game after last week banning Chelsea from signing any players until 2011. Since the Gael Kakuta ruling a whole host of offended clubs have come out to demand action.
Most of Europe's top clubs have stated they would support a ban on any transfers for under-age players, but Wenger strongly disagrees claiming there are many advantages to joining big clubs with a professional infrastructure.
Arsenal have one of the most cosmopolitan academies in Europe with players from all over the globe.
"People think that we take 30 players every year and you get them into your academy," he said. "No, it's not like that. When we take one or two, we give them a top level education, we give them a top level scholarship, and we look after them socially.
"Look at the alternative. If you ban players from moving before the age of 18, you know what will happen? The player will be sold anyway,'' he said. "To whom? To agents. At what age? At 13, 14. Where will they go? Not to top-level clubs with top-level education.
"They will go to clubs who have been bought by business people, of a very low level, and will stay there until the age of 18 waiting to be sold. The money will go out of the game. You have always to look if you make one decision, what kind of alternative?
"If your players cannot move to the best clubs, I believe they will not improve. At the end of the day, to be a top-level player is to be with the best. You can speak bout the compensation level, is it right or not. I am open to that.
"I am against the process of stopping the players moving to the top level. If you have a child who is a good musician, what is your first reaction? It is to put it into a good music school, not in an average one, so why should that not happen in football?
"If a player goes to Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, it is all clean and he gets a good education. That is why I am very sharp on cases like that. We have to respect the rules that are in place.
"England is, at the moment, in a weak position for taking young players because they inflict a big handicap on themselves by the fact that they have no access to Asian players, no access to South American players, no access to African players.
"On top of that, if it was impossible to take European players then you will have a big handicap in the future for English football. What is happening now is a case that I have fought for a long, long time against - people with regressive ideas.
"To expose your local players to top-world class players does not harm your players, it improves your players because it respects one basic rule - the best to become better have to play better. If you have a good national team today, it just proves it conforms to what I have preached for a long, long time - don't hide the best players in England from being exposed with the best ones, because that will make them weaker.
"Get them to be confronted with the best and make them stronger."