Look at that ‘selling club’: What exactly is the ambition of Arsenal’s board?
By Felix Chidemon
In hindsight, most Rangers and Portsmouth fans would care. The bulk of us simply don’t! There are no open top bus parades where club CEOs hold up the balance sheets while fans fill the streets cheering for the profits made that year.
And no matter how financially sound our knowledge of economics and business may become in future, that sight is hard to even imagine. Fans tend to find it more intriguing to talk about their team’s prospects on the pitch rather than off it. Who can blame them? I’d rather talk about the sex than the integrity of the condom too to be frank.
Every club talks at length about how they value their fans and want to make them happy. Arsenal’s board has always added its voice to this chorus but it would appear they have always done the opposite. Key players have been sold with startling regularity while profits have been declared. It would appear the board is only keen to stay relevant in business circles while the footballing side of matters suffers.
Arsenal CEO, Ivan Gazidis, has always put his weight behind Arsenal’s business model but he has failed to endear himself to the fans. He has on some occasions said that even if the club fails to qualify for the prestigious Uefa Champions League, the club will not be hit too badly financially. The fans haven’t taken this lightly and have accused the board of fleecing them of their hard earned cash and taking advantage of their love for The Arsenal.
Only the board’s craving for bumper profits has matched the fan’s hunger for silverware while Arsene Wenger has juggled both matters with admirable competence. There has been a steady rise in support for Uzbekistan billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, who holds the second largest stake in Arsenal after American billionaire Stan Kroenke. Kroenke’s reluctance to invest heavily in the squad and Usmanov’s conveniently timed condemnation of the board have been the main sponsors of Usmanov’s rise in popularity.
Many amongst the Arsenal faithful believe that with Usmanov at the helm, the club can compete in the transfer market with the big boys. It is an opinion that I also share but unlike many people I’ve encountered, I embrace it with some reservation. The current Arsenal board has made it clear that as things stand, it simply cannot compete. To this end, club chairman Peter Hill-Wood remarked in a recent interview, “At a certain level, we can’t compete.
I don’t think [majority shareholder] Stan Kroenke is going to put the sort of dollars in that [Roman] Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour are putting into Chelsea or Manchester City. That’s not the way he thinks clubs should be run. “Luckily, Arsene understands that. He got an economics degree from Strasbourg University so he’s certainly no fool. He knows how a club should be run. That annoys a lot of people but clubs have to be sustainable. We’re not going to go bankrupt in the way one or two other well-known clubs have.”
Under the leadership of the Glazer family, Manchester United has grown into the most valuable sports team. Although the Glazer family have saddled the club with their debt, United fans have little else to complain about as they have seen their club get accolade after accolade while slashing their new debts and recording profits. Such a situation has proved to be too much to ask of the Arsenal board and the club has slowly fallen to just above the level of the Tottenham’s of this world.
Its laughable that a highly praised business model such as Arsenal’s has failed to cater for its fans demands. Is it a question of Wenger failing the club by not winning anything under this model system or is it rather a case of the model not being as prudent as has been touted? Whatever your take on the matter, the writing is on the wall! Under the current leadership, Arsenal will flourish as a business but will continue to struggle on the pitch.
The tide of marquee players leaving shall not subside and the fans shall continue to be discontent with the way things are run. And the few of us who have bothered to care about how much money the club makes will start to care less and less. Having concern for the club’s finances is not a measure of one’s intellectual qualities and neither does the want for silverware regardless of what the books say mean that one does not care about the club’s long term future. The heavy presence of both these sentiments only suggests that the system is deficient of harmony.
It is the board’s vision to attain self sustainability and it is the fan’s dream to dominate world football. Arsenal must merge the two to restore harmony. True success shall lie within securing this marriage. While I might not care about finances as much as some of you, I care very much about your views on this matter and look forward to seeing them in the comments section below.