So I’ve just come back from my first Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) meeting. Why did I join? I am first and foremost, like all of us, a fan. I want to get closer to the club and during these turbulent times, try to fathom out what is going on.
What I do know is that as every Emirates Stadium filled year passes we have to accept our current situation – we are no longer really contending for the big prizes. Our big prize has to be CL qualification, and this season, we will be clinging on for dear life.
Why has this happened? Is it all on Arsene, the Board or both? The stats and facts don’t lie – 3 wins in 15 is pretty disastrous. We have sold our two best players and struggled to find world class replacements.
- We have money for transfers – Arsene simply won’t spend. He believes we have enough quality already.
- Wage bills of clubs have a correlation to their position – needless to say Utd, City and Chelsea occupy the top 3. We are 5th or 6th – we may well test this correlation to be really accurate this season.
- We will make a good profit and more property deals will act as a parachute next season if we don’t qualify for the Champions League.
So financially we are in good shape. I had believed that Arsene has done a great job with limited funds and a massive stadium debt to service. This seems a bit far from the truth.
Arsene is in TOTAL control of the playing side of the club including the transfers. He has the funds (probably about £50m in January) to spend – but he simply doesn’t want to. David Dein once said that Arsene is a great developmental manager – and his June signings lend towards this – Gervinho, Ryo, Jenkinson and Campebell. The defeat by Utd and injuries to TV5 and Wilshire forced his hand as he went out and bought Arteta, Yossi and The Meatlocker.
I am really trying to figure this one out. We weren’t good enough last season, fact. We needed some experience and steel, fact. These were on top of having Cesc and Na$ri. So I am somewhat dumbfounded that Arsene was quoted as saying that injury forced his hand over our deadline day transfers.
Today’s meeting was more about the board being out of touch, I am not sure whether Arsene is too.
So what of the board. It is clear that the AST is really disillusioned with SK. While taking control he played positively to the fan custodianship of the club, but now he is THE man, he hasn’t been seen or heard!! With him and Ushmanov buying shares left, right and centre, it has meant that there aren’t enough going round for the AST’s excellent Fan Share scheme to buy any more and may face pausing the scheme. With just 100 shares available the scheme can generate £1m. But these have become rarer than any 2012 Athletic tickets.
SK’s silence is really deafening. In seasons gone by, in the first programme of the season (and with Season Tickets) you would see a letter from the Chairman/owner. SK should say something at the start about his vision. It seemed clear that his sporting interests in the clubs/franchises that he owns lay in the USA. He has been seen at many opening games there but not at The Arsenal.
No communication screams no vision or strategy. Apparently the board are 2 years into a 5 year commercial strategy. We are miles behind Utd in this area too. They don’t have a sugar daddy supporting them. They are servicing their debt and generating huge revenues due to smart commercial deals. While we may make £15m, they are making £50m a year. We are being hamstrung by deals done a few years ago, that won’t come to renewal until 2014. The board’s ethos is that they hang on there until then.
Ivan Gazidis (IG) seems to be a piggy in the middle in all this. He believes in what the AST is trying to do, but is hit by a brick wall that has been erected by SK. He knows that success on the pitch is key, but he too may be hitting a brick wall, this time erected by Arsene.
Who knows what is really going on. I am a fan, and I want The Arsenal to be performing on the pitch first and foremost whilst trying not to go broke so that my kid’s, kids will have Arsenal in years to come to support. Arsene has built Arsenal into a wonderful club, on and off the pitch – no denying it.
However, if there is money to spend, and he can’t see the deficiencies in his squad and tactics, and truly believes we can compete with Utd, City and Chelsea on the pitch, constricted by a wage policy he created, maintained and promoted, then coming 4th this season is really the height of our ambition and will remain so for the next few years.
The elephant in the room today (you know that thing we all know is there and scared to talk about) is of Arsene’s position at the club. The AST meeting is quite rightly not a forum to discuss this. You could feel the tension if the topic got just briefly broached. I have said on this topic about being scared for what you wish for – I really don’t know what to wish for, except for Arsenal to win!
If you are interested in joining the AST please visit http://www.arsenaltrust.org/