So, two days into February and I’m already treating you up to some exclusive information I’ve weened from my new best friend Tim over at the Arsenal Supporters Trust. We’ve batted a few e-mails back and forth over the past few weeks and one of the topics of discussion was whether Arsene Wenger is financially incentivised to earn profit for the club.
This topic of discussion came about after Wenger said this in late January 2009 in an interview with the Guardian…
‘”I am on a very good contract. I am one of the few managers who makes money for my club every year. That is the most important. I tell you something, if I would not make money for the club, I would not be on a very good contract.”‘
Was Arsene Wenger’s new-found obsession with youth and saving money driven by personal gain? Had Arsenal incentivised him to post profits during the tight years in a bid to keep the ship afloat? An entirely feasible possibility… but would we ever find out the truth?
Well, Tim has only gone and flat-out asked Ivan Gazidis as part of a round of questioning for the AST, so here’s the gossip.
“Arsenal have confirmed to the AST that Arsene Wenger does not receive any bonus or financial reward linked to Arsenal’s commercial activity or profits the club makes. His contract is related to football success only. Additionally, I raised some ownership issues with Arsene last year when promoting Arsenalfanshare.com and he said that he had never bought, or taken shares offered, in Arsenal as he felt to do so would conflict with his role as manager. His case was that he might then be motivated by the share price and not the football performance. So that should clear up the debate”
So that settles that one then. Any decisions Arsene Wenger makes on signing players is entirely based on his gut feel and penchant for a bargain. Basically, he’s Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, guardian of £15.7billion, driver of a clapped out 15 year old Volvo.
The man loves to save, he loves the balance sheet and he gets off on sensible numbers. Regardless of whether he’s right or wrong, at least we know he only has the clubs best interests at heart.
If you think that’s all the goss we were told, you’d be wrong… Tim also had this to say…
“It is also the case that Arsene is one of the very few managers in football who attends all of his club’s Board meetings and contributes to the overall strategy including its financial direction. He is committed to the self-sustainability principle and is clearly respected and trusted by the Board for this approach which of course relates to why they choose to remunerate him extremely well and allow him autonomy over the football side of the club. So while he correctly isn’t incentivised by financial performance he is totally committed to and sets the club’s objectives in this area”
Onto the not so good news and a point that hasn’t really been picked up by too many people.
Last summer was the first time in an absolute age that we didn’t sell a major player. Whether this was by luck or by design is very much open for debate, but I can exclusively reveal to you that this years financials will NOT be receiving the usual open top bus parade.
We will not be posting record profits and there are, according to the AST, a number of reasons for this.
1. It’s the first year (ever) that we haven’t sold any major players
2. The Property at Highbury Square is now almost done, so there are few sales coming through and Queensland Road not sold yet (It’ll be worth about 1 Andy Carroll when it is)
3. The wage bill has risen (17 new contracts) as have the various bonuses and signing on fees and as Geoff keeps pointing out, we have a very large squad
4. Commercial deals still locked into low revenues
So perhaps Wenger’s reticence to touch the £40million war chest is related to worry about where the next batch of money is coming from? Or maybe he just didn’t fancy anyone this particular window.
Does this mean we’ll look to shed the dead wood around the squad? Or does it merely suggest that we’re now on a stable footing going forward and that we’ll just have to wait it out until we can renegotiate our dismal commercial deals (2014)? It’s going to be an interesting few years on that front and it’ll be interesting to see exactly how low profits will be.
Remember, Gazidis himself said that now all the urgent debts have been taken care of, profit can be used purely for squad strengthening. However, if we’re kicking around the £6-7million area, that leaves us sniffing around the bargain basement players or resorting to selling before we can buy.
My big worry is that the AST worked out there was roughly £40million to spend on players this transfer window. That’s about the amount of money we received for Adebayor and Toure.
Are we only posting profits when we’re selling houses or important players?
The information we’ve received from the AST is more about clarification opposed to them gushing about how amazing Arsenal’s corporate team are at running things. For me, that’s quite important, it’s good to know that we have a supporters body that is challenging the accepted practice at the club… like disrespecting trophies etc. They went to the effort of identifying that we had around £40million available for players this window and keep it on the down low, but I think Tim and a number of the AST members were just as keen as we were to see a centre back arrive.
Keep that quiet though.
Finally, for those who say that complaining on the internet has no impact on the club, well, apparently, you are wrong.
The AST held an online survey about the club, which you can read here. Section D is about winning trophies and one of the main AST member gripes last season was that Arsenal were not focused enough on winning them. Apparently this document was passed around at board level and to Arsene Wenger. The conclusion, factoring in what the marketing team also read on the blogs, was that this year, things needed to change and so they have.
The power of the web and the power of a fan collective put to fantastic use. We’re looking extremely good now for a possible cup double. That gets the monkey of Wenger’s back, it gives the supporters something to cheer about and most importantly, it teaches the kids what it feels like to win a trophy!
I thought that was a pretty damn interesting read, I want to say a big thanks to Tim for sharing the information with me and I’d like to thank the AST as well.
If you’re lucky, we might find some more exclusives heading our way as the month goes on (some based on questions asked in the Le Grove comments), so keep posting your thoughts because rest assured, they’re important to Arsenal and I’m pretty certain some of them are read by people in high places (yes, maybe even God).
Have a great day, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!
P.S. If you want to use any of this for your own site, feel free but please backlink us and the AST, it’s common courtesy even if you’re not a fan of LG.
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