Try your hardest to be non-partisan during this post. It is after all non-partisan day.
I went out to watch my boss have a fag the yesterday, if he can take fag breaks, I can take passive smoking breaks. I’ll be damned if anyone is going to tell me otherwise. We got chatting about football, he’s a scouser, we’re sharing similar pain at the moment, though it has to be said, we’re suffering a paper cut compared to the arm Liverpool lost in the shredder.
Anyway, talk came onto the plight of his club financially. He spoke of it being a good thing for the club, he said relegation might not be such a bad thing either because at some point they’ve got to start from scratch and find their way as a club together.
He doesn’t feel sorry for himself noting that Liverpool fans pined after a new buyer for 4 years before the Americans came in. Looking on green eyed at the spending of United and Chelsea, seeking similar gratification for themselves and hoping they too could be elevated to the next level and achieve success on a par with what was standard for them in the 70’s and 80’s.
It didn’t work out that way though did it? The Americans came in, promised new players, a new stadium… all with no LBO. Theys did ok for a while, they received planning permission to build on Stanley park, they lent the club £140million to buy Rafa a bunch of average players and they finished 2nd in the league. Regardless of success, my colleague said as soon as that sale happened, the club lost something more important than success and shiny new players… it’s soul.
Something it hasn’t been able to claw back since. Even the players seem to hate being there…
Liverpool were an institution similar to ours before the Americans came in and butchered it in the space of 4 years. They were lauded for doing things the Liverpool way, for caring about the fans and creating an amazing atmosphere to watch football. According to my season ticket holding boss… that’s all gone.
I wrote a pretty strong post about this subject a year ago to much derision. However, I think it’s more pertinent than ever to reiterate that my biggest fear as an Arsenal fan is that we have no way of controlling our destiny. The board can sell with the best intentions just like David Moores did… but after that cheque is signed and the reigns are handed over, the new owner is free to do as he pleases.
Since the influx of foreign owners in the Premiership, who has done well? West Ham nearly went under, Newcastle were relegated, Portsmouth flunked out of the Premiership, City originally sold out to a fugitive who didn’t have the cash, United are nearly bankrupt… the list of failures is certainly more impressive than the list of success stories.
Allegedly things are so bad at United, it’s widely accepted internally that it’s over for them. The players hate each other, the staff don’t get on and the money has well and truly dried up. The only thing holding them together is Ferguson’s iron fist rule. Theirs a whole in the side of their titanic ship, it’s the size of a coke can at the moment, once he leaves, that hole is going to burst open and sink one of the biggest footballing super powers of the last 20 years. Who’d have thought such a destiny were possible 10 years ago when they were making so much profit, they struggled to spend it.
Bebe and Hernandez are not shrewd buys, they’re desperation buys. Giggs, Scholes and Hargreaves haven’t been replaced because they can’t be replaced. Watch this space, it’s going to be car crash.
Villa are supposedly one of the success stories. They owe Lerner £60million though and they’ve now had to accept mediocrity after he reigned in the purse strings. Birmingham are doing ok so far. Obviously the stand out is Abramovich who has stuck by his investment. He’s still lumbered with a club that’s probably never going to give him a decent return. City could be deemed a success in the making, I’d like to see if they Sheikh’s are about in 10 years time. City fans should enjoy the good times while they last, that’s the trouble with sugar daddies, there’s always a more exciting propostion awaiting. At least City have history… something Chelsea struggled with.
So what do we hope for? Kroenke doesn’t have the finance to take us to City’s level of spending and he doesn’t appear to have the cash to absorb the cost of the club. This worries me. He doesn’t talk of his intentions and he doesn’t have an emotional attachment to Arsenal. Those two ingredients are very scary especially considering the Americans reputation in the Premiership so far. If you’re over here, it’s for the pay day, if you think otherwise, you’re being naive.
Usmanov? Well, everyone hates him… A mixture of nasty allegations, a murky CV and obviously he’s eastern European. If you look like a Bond Villain, chances are you are, right? Well, I’m not so sure he’s the worst option. He’s an incredible businessman, he has re-amassed his fortune since the markets collapsed and he’s close friend of Abramovich. They all knock about in the same circles, I can’t help but think he’d want us for the same reasons the Russian in West London wanted Chelsea. A bit of an indulgence. A nice company to have in your portfolio. Collapsing an amazing North London club in front of your mates would be pretty embarrassing wouldn’t it?
Then there is Jay-Z. What to make of his interest in the club? Undoubtedly a businessman with a keen eye for a good deal, amassing a fortune of nearly a billion dollars… However I’m not sure a £4.5million stake in the New York Nets qualifies you to even entertain the idea of running the greatest club in the world.
For me, what will define the club for the next ten years isn’t how quickly we pay off the debt, it’s who takes over the reigns when the board call in their pay day. How can we as fans be assured that this whole stadium move process was in the our best interests? At the end of the day, forget what the board have done, we’ve paid the extortionate ticket prices, continued buying the shirts and supported a flawed on the pitch youth project.
We allowed this to happen, without the fans, the club is nothing. Therefore I think we deserve assurances this debt repayment malarkey isn’t going to be a cyclical norm in the future.
Paying down the debt just for it to be topped up to the tune of £600million once the board have sold out is not a proposition I relish. The new stadium might lack soul, but the club still retains it by the bundle… what are the current board going to do to preserve and protect the soul, future and everything that is great about our club?
I’ll tell you on the 22nd of October because I’ve submitted it as my question for the AGM.
Check out Kyles Euro 2012 piece over at The Real Arsenal for a bit of international reading.
I see everyone’s reporting a fully fit squad after the international break? LG told you that two weeks ago here… stick with us, you wont go wrong!
See you in the comments!