Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A sad day in the history of Arsenal Football Club

A few tweets from Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, summed up my misgivings about the events which have occurred in the past 48 hours:

I am in shock over Kroenke taking 62% of Arsenal. Heart not head. Doesn't feel in keeping with Gooner traditions, tho am not sure why.

What may be lost at Arsenal with Kroenke takeover is our distinctiveness & proud sense of independence. Now we're just like the rest. Sad.

It's hard to sum up the mood amongst gooners at the moment, and I don't claim to be any such barometer - but I felt that it might be worth adding my 'two cents', as it were, to the argument.

Firstly, I don't believe that any football club, let alone ours, should be privately owned by any one individual. Clubs should be representatives and servants of wider communities, and should be owned by their fans. These fans, as far as I'm concerned, can come from anywhere in the world. I've watched Arsenal play in bars which are thousands of miles away from Islington, and seen people there who care just as much about the club as local ST holders. Football should be, above all, about passion, a sense of belonging, and tradition - and fans are the best people to ensure these things are maintained at the forefront of a club's vision.

When I buy a match ticket, or a replica shirt, I want to know that my money is going towards the running and growth of a club, not towards, fundamentally, the enrichment of an already fantastically rich individual. Under private ownership, clubs are simply machines to serve the economic interests of their owners. That's not why football clubs came into existence, and it's not why they should exist today.

Secondly, whilst Kroenke has stated in his offer doc that "The offer will not be funded by way of any debt finance … for which the payment of interest on, repayment of or security for any liability [contingent or otherwise] will depend on the business of Arsenal", this doesn't necessarily mean that we are going to avoid a situation whereby the fans effectively pay for Kroenke's purchase of the club.

As Matt Scott in the Guardian put it:

"The Guardian asked Kroenke's adviser how Kroenke had financed the acquisition and if it had involved any form of borrowing against his other assets. Kroenke declined to respond. When asked whether the director-shareholders had applied a restrictive covenant preventing dividends being drawn from the club, Arsenal responded that since it was not detailed in the offer document no such covenant exists. That opens the door to the possibility that, in a less direct way than Glazer, he may in future use the club's funds to service leverage he has taken on to fund the buyout."

If Kroenke wants to win over the Arsenal fans, he clearly needs to be much more open about how he is going to finance the purchase of the club, and what his intentions are for its future management. And, personally, I want to hear from the man himself, not just Gazidis. Arsenal fans pay thousands of pounds in ticket prices, and have a right to hear directly from the club's upper management about how the club is being run.

Of course, Kroenke has managed his sports clubs very successfully and prudently in the US. But US sports teams are subject to much greater degrees of regulation that English football. The NFL, for example, is effectively run as a closed monopoly, with strict spending caps, by the 'franchise' owners. Running the St Louis Rams is a very different proposition to running an Premier League team, and I'm not sure it should be cited as evidence in Kroenke's favour.

To sum up - a takeover by Kroenke is preferable to one by Usmanov. But this weekend's movements saw the beginning of the end of Arsenal as a club which had fans as substantial shareholders. It really has come to something when I hope that Usmanov does keep his shares, in order that the multitude of small fan shareholders are not forced to sell their stock to Kroenke.

It does not have to be this way. In Germany, 51% of all clubs must be owned by their fans. It seems that the Germans have not forgotten why football clubs came into existence. Hopefully, one day the UK will also remember that football is not just about money.

As a post-script, I'd also just like to express my gratitude towards Danny Fiszman, in the hope that all Arsenal fans recognise the work undertaken by this man, the last true 'custodian' of the club. If Danny trusts Kroenke enough to sell his shares to him, then I will given Kroenke the benefit of the doubt in the short-term. But, given the other recent takeovers of Premier League clubs, I think it would be short-sighted to be anything but extremely cautious of what may occur in the future.


Anonymous said...

Fizman & Lady Nina did it for the money, they and PHW got very, very well paid. Money talks, board members walk!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments. A sad day for all gooners.

It would be great to have a system like you outlined in Germany. Is a real shame that Arsenal have sold out to a non-Arsenal fan and business man who is ultimately just in it to make a profit. I don't believe Kroenke has any clue about how to run an English football club and he'll find it a lot different than the system in the States, no matter what you read about his 'experience in the sports arena'. I think this guy lacks experience in the 'communications' arena. I don't think we've heard him grace us with a press conference to speak about his plans for the club. It's all done through other people which is very disappointing. It's probably because he doesn't live here and doesn't really give a shit as long as the investment is sound and he makes a profit.
I am in principle against this takeover and I don't think it is good for the club or the fans who are very much pushed to the side these days and are, it seems, an annoyance to certain board members and the manager, unless we pipe down, give our money and behave ourselves of course.
Having said that, Arsenal is more of a business than a club (since the stadium move) and a takeover was inevitable as the directors wanted to get their money back.
The only positive outcome would be that the new owner gives generous transfer funds in the future. If not then I can't see any benefit to Arsenal fans.
AFB. Arsenal Football Business.
Ah well, I hope I'm wrong!
Cheers mate.

Anonymous said...

It has always been a badge that we Gooners fans have been proud to wear. The badge of independence I mean. Our club is owned by 'supporters' not by corporations or individual speculators. We are not getting an Abramovich either. A bored 'could probably have you all killed' type tycoon who really needs a trainset. No we are being bought by a shrewd businessman. I hope he treats the club well. All for one and one for all. Cept Clichy.

Anonymous said...

Though undoubtedly dividends will be paid out at some time there needn't be an automatic assumption that Kroenke cannot better maximise the revenues of AFC than the present board has been able to. KSE is founded on just that expertise. It may well be that if Kroenke is as good as he believes he is - and his investment shows a pretty high level of commitment to that believe - then it is quite possible that he can not only pay dividends out of the revenues generated but also generate revenues to both cover them and continue to invest in the club. Only time will tell but not all successful businessmen are short terms asset strippers. Many do bring real value with them.

Harry Seo said...
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Press Release Format said...

Arsenal football club is my favourite football club.After knowing the sad news Of Arsenal club
i am not felling well because it is one of the favourite football club in Europe.Thanks for sharing it.