by Agency Reporter
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed the club’s popularity in African countries “frightens” him and admitted the scheduled pre-season tour to Nigeria is not for sporting reasons.
The Gunners have regularly travelled to the Far East in recent tours but will also visit Africa for the first time ahead of next season.
Wenger said that the Gunners have had to forfeit some of their pre-season training plans at their London base in order to fulfil their commerical responsibilities.
“We have had to compromise on the sporting side, because we had a rational, methodical approach to our pre-season,” the Frenchman told reporters on Friday. “We have sacrificed some of that to go on tour.
“But we are in a race with the other clubs as well. I realised when I was at the World Cup in South Africa how popular a club like Arsenal is in Africa, especially in Nigeria. It is unbelievable.
“I was even frightened at some stage by how popular Arsenal is. In Kenya as well, it is absolutely unbelievable.”
The Gunners coach also confessed that in a summer with a major international tournament — in this case, Euro 2012 — an extended tour creates further problems.
“A tour has advantages and disadvantages, let’s be honest,” he added.
“The advantage, of course, is to get in touch with your fan base in Asia — when you travel out there you realise how big the Premier League is and how big your club is over there.
“We are looking forward to doing it again, but unfortunately in the European Championship years or the World Cup years, on the purely sports side you suffer a bit more because your players have just come back and have to travel again, so the preparation time will be short for them.
“But on purely fan-base it is very exciting.”
Arsenal’s chief commercial officer Tom Fox acknowledged that the travelling was inconvenient, but stressed his belief that the club can benefit hugely.
“We do not take these decisions lightly at all,” the American said.
“We understand from a training perspective it is not ideal, and the pressure we feel that when we do something as disruptive as taking Arsene’s preparation on the road, we need to make sure we get the most out of that.
“We feel that responsibility acutely within this club. We are not just flying people around because we think there may be opportunities.
“We have tried to be very purposeful about it because we completely understand it is a very disruptive thing to do.
“So we are going to do everything we can to make sure we get everything we can from these visits and games
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