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Sep, 25, 2009

Hill-Wood: Gunners voted for but oppose quotas

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has revealed his club voted in favour of the Premier League's quota system even though the North London giants are vehemently opposed to the plan.

• Wenger criticises plans for quotas

The Gunners' Old Etonian chairman gave a compelling full scale interview to ESPN soccernet, discussing all the major issues in football and explained why Arsenal said "yes" to quotas, when they would have preferred to have said "no"

On the eve of ESPN's live televised match at Fulham on Saturday evening, Hill-Wood dissected the big issues in football; the first chairman to openly debate quotas and the impending financial restrictions the Premier League are planning to introduce next.

On quotas Hill-Wood said: "Arsenal voted for it, but we are against it. We are opposed to restrictions of any sort on young players, as we are not quite sure who these restrictions would help.

"I am not sure that we should be forcing youngsters, whether they are 16, 18 or 21, into doing anything they don't want to. It's a free world, and I believe in a free market. Let's face it, if they don't like it they up sticks and go.

"We voted in favour of the quotas because it appeared that is what the majority of the clubs wanted and we went along with it. We feel that we should support the majority, rather than rebel against them.

"To be perfectly truthful, I don't anticipate that the quota system will be particularly harmful to any of the clubs. I don't actually think it is achieving a great deal."

On financial controls on clubs, Hill Wood said: "Again, this is about a free market in which I am in favour. So, if someone wants to come along and put £200 million down on the table to buy a football club, that's fine, if that's what they want to do.

"I am, though, against saddling a club with huge amounts of debt. That is not clever, and not the way I see football clubs being run. That's not to say we don't have a big debt, of course we do, but the debt was incurred to build a new stadium and we have a 25 year bond with a fixed rate of interest and we are paying off that debt over 25 years and living within our means. I don't consider that irresponsible, it is an asset for the club and the stadium produces much larger revenues for us."

As the longest serving and one of the most respected chairmen in football, Hill-Wood has a heartfelt wish for the future of the game. "I wish that everyone would behave responsibly." He added with a wry smile: "Perhaps that is a forlorn hope!"

He went on: "The Premier League want to bring in some form of financial discipline. It is not easy. I am afraid I do not have a magic wand to solve all the problems. But we do need financial responsibility in football, and the best discipline is self discipline."

Hill-Wood remains a pillar of the game in this country, and he observes: "We have seen colossal changes to the game over the past 15 years, generally changes for the good. Football has become an entertainment business, and the football played in this country, on the whole is highly entertaining, some of it is a bit dour. Standards are very high, though, but there are some issues I don't approve of.

"On the positive side, though, overall the standards are a great deal higher than they were 20 years ago, and largely that is due to the influx of the best players from around the world and they have undoubtedly provided much of the spectacle.

"There is now an enormous amount of money flashed around. And, yes, it can be good for the game if it is responsibly controlled. By that I mean the use of it is responsible - and in certain circumstances it is probably not.

"Some clubs are not run on a sensible, sustainable business, and that is inclined to end in tears. I am not naming names, but we all know who we are talking about, it is obvious.

"For example, Arab money has poured into Manchester City, and so from Manchester City's point of view they are not going to complain, and for the rest of football it is good that there is another club able to compete for a place in the top three or four.

"But in the final analysis, it is about the Premier League putting into place controls that are absolutely right, otherwise they would lead to all sorts of problems. Laws can have unintentional consequences.

"It might sound like a good idea to have financial controls, but they must be very carefully thought out to make them work. They could end up doing more harm than good if people are only interested in getting round them. That is why I advocate self discipline.

"I am not blowing my own trumpet here, but we do run our club on the right business lines, perhaps we have no other option. However, I doubt whether we would do it any other way, not while I am around at least. It is not in my nature, nor is it in the nature of anyone else at the club. I am reluctant to sound that presumptuous but we do run a sensible, sustainable business.

"I have said it many times, we have no intention of spending £50m, £80m on a player. We cannot afford it. We do buy players and we pay them very well, jolly well, although perhaps not as well as some in the game where it has just gone crazy.

"Fans do have greater expectations and they do want everything; they would like us to spend buckets of money, but they would be very upset if we went bankrupt, and let's face it a couple of big name clubs have been hovering on the brink of administration in recent weeks.

"You cannot have it every way, and I know we do take some fair share of criticism for the way we operate and behave, but so be it. It's a question of finding the right formula that works."

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