By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has no complaints about the fitness levels of referees in the Premier League but he would like match officials to ‘keep their distance’ from players and managers.
The physical condition of referees has been on the agenda since Alan Wiley was criticised by Sir Alex Ferguson following Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland a fortnight ago.
The Scot suggested that Wiley was not fit enough to keep up with the game at Old Trafford and has since apologised for his remarks. According to Wenger, fitness is not a problem area for referees but their tendency to be ‘friendly’ with some players and managers is a cause for concern.
“I believe that physically compared to ten years ago they are fitter,” said the Frenchman. “Fitness-wise there is no problem in England with the referees.
“I have no relationship with the referee. I never speak to any referee. I believe what was shocking in that [Man United v Sunderland] game was not only what happened with Ferguson and the fourth official. I believe that the referees have to keep their distance with the players as well.
“Personally I respect the referees and I think the referees have to keep their distances from the managers and the players.”
Wenger was asked if he backed calls for Ferguson to be punished for his attack on Wiley. The Arsenal manager refused to be drawn on the matter.
“I believe he apologised and it’s not down to me to say what the punishment should be. It is not my problem basically,” said Wenger.
“You know we are sometimes too excessive after the games. What the punishment should be is not my problem. What we want is for everybody to be treated exactly the same so there is only one rule in the Premier League.
“When the managers do not respect the code of conduct, this rule has to be applied to everybody and I don’t think even Ferguson would want to be treated differently.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 16 Oct 2009