Mesut Ozil: Arsenal chief denies commercial decision behind response to Uighurs comments

Mesut Ozil was left out of the Arsenal’s 25-man Premier League and Europa League squads this season

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham has denied the club took a commercial decision to stand back from Mesut Ozil’s comments on the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China.

In December 2019, former Arsenal player Ozil, who is Muslim, called the Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution”.

Arsenal distanced themselves from the comments at the time, saying they were “apolitical as an organisation”.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say we took a commercial view,” said Venkatesham.

“I know it is how it has been reported but I don’t think it is fair to say it.”

Although Ozil did play for the club again, the episode appeared to damage his standing at the club and he spent a long period on the sidelines before joining Turkish club Fenerbahce on a free transfer in January.

Speaking during a session on diversity at the FT Business of Football summit on Thursday, Venkatesham was challenged on how the club appeared to stand back from Ozil, which many felt was down to the club and the Premier League’s commercial interests in China.

“We were asked for comment around the situation, predominantly we were…