Geoff normally lets me go to full-blown club AGM on his behalf, they’re pretty boring so I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the AST’s version. I arrived at a rather swanky building, greeted by none other than my good friend Peroni… I knew this was going to be ok.
Firstly, Nigel Phillips ran through the accounting side of things…
- Wage bill is fairly low when compared to turnover, but don’t kid yourself, the kids aren’t going without their shreddies
- The £110million you see in the cash reserves is bloated by season tickets and is used for operational expenditure like playing Diaby.
- £25million sits in a secured account to pay down debt. This is a contractual requirement.
- There is a transfer proceeds account that has the Ade and Toure money in it. We have £35million available for transfers.
- 70% of net sale proceeds must go into the playing squad to avoid a firesale Leeds United type problem.
- This rule is bypassed by Arsenal when they give out huge contracts extensions.
- It is estimated that £15million of our wage bill is for paying our expensive commercial team who don’t do very much.
- AST have asked Arsenal about buying out bad commercial deals, apparently it’s ‘not the Arsenal way’ and it’d be ‘expensive’
- That 6.5% raise in season ticket prices raised an extra £3-4 million. Hardly worth it for the strife it caused you have to say? Just sell a Diaby and you’ll raise the same revenue.
- Arsenal announce 60,000 capacity every game to convince fans the ground is full… on average, the ACTUAL gate for games of a non-essential nature have been 5000 short of capacity.
- Arsenal are the best in the league for Press Conferences
- Journo’s used to have a banter with Wenger, he’d talk about anything and the relationship was good. They’d even forgive his faux pas if he asked!
- This year, Arsenal have scaled down press conferences… this is Wenger’s doing. He feels the criticism has been harsh on him and rumours about his personal life haven’t helped things.
- Journo’s don’t write the headlines of their stories.
- Arsenal fans tend to only focus on the negatives, forgetting all the amazing press coverage they recieved during the invincible season.
- The feeling is that last week, Wenger was under prepared for his meeting with reporters. People were fair with him and they had to ask the tough questions because it’s clear the unhappiness at the ground is no longer the minority
- Wenger is out of touch with the supporters, he genuinely believes 4th is some sort of trophy or at least worth one.
- Thierry Henry used to phone up when he received bad press coverage!
- Arsenal now require a sign off for all interviews, something many journalists do not agree with.
- He agreed that there is a ‘cheating foreigner’ mentality amongst some sections of the media.
We then moved swiftly on to the big news of the night… Stan Kroenke and his buyout ambitions.
As part of the agreement, no acquisition debt will be put on the club. That said, he has to own 75% of the club to legally do that anyway.
Stan has always Championed supporter involvement, something the AST will remind him of in the coming months.
Gazidis has actively been keeping the AST abreast of all the things going on.
The rules of the takeover are as followed…
- You must make a mandatory bid after you pass the 30% threshold
- You then have 28 days to make an offer. Realistically, if you’re a shareholder, expect that offer in 2-3 days (It’ll be 90 pages long)
- There will be three choices, accept, reject, do nothing
- The offer price will be £11,750 per share
The vibe at the AST is that most minor shareholders won’t sell up. Most of the people who would have sold have already done so, the remaining people owning shares are holding onto them for sentiment. There is also the feeling that the offer document almost declares that Stan doesn’t think he’ll be buying more than his 62%. To take the club private, he’d have to buy up 90% of the remaining shares, which equates to a 93% holding. Usmanov not selling will put paid to a total buy out.
Stan will be loyal to the board short-term, he’s had to be, they’ve sold him their shares. Long term, the feeling is the board will take a new look and we’ll bring on some of the expensive commercial team who by then, will have made an incredibly large comical ball of elastic bands… you know, due to the inaction in their roles.
A few more tid-bits…
Stan cannot write a cheque for Arsenal tomorrow. He’s paying for the shares he’s bought out of cash flow.
Usmanov being involved keeps the fans involved. If he sells, we hand power to a single man who let’s be clear, we have no idea about. Being American and wearing a silly hat does not mean he’s going to be great for the club. It’s also worth noting that Usmanov was prepared to dilute some of his shareholding to the AST if Stan matched his share offering one for one. Guess what? Stan said no…
On the topic of Fanshare, since its inception, 50 shares are now in the hands of the AST. That’s £500k of hard-earned put in by Arsenal fans. Is there a club in the world that could muster that sort of support for part ownership? Not very many… that is an incredible achievement and one you should all be proud of. Too much slagging goes on about Arsenal fans… generally from the people who don’t put their hands in their pockets.
Peter Hill-Wood was given a ribbing from all sections of the AST yesterday. His comments should absolutely not be tolerated on any level and there have been many examples of people who have been caught out digging out the fans and their fates have always been the same… removal. I fully support the removal of Peter Hill-Wood from club and hopefully it’ll happen sooner rather than later. His comments were out of touch, unprofessional and wholly expected. Move him on and start a fresh… bring back Dein, the time is right.
Many people say Le Grove and the comments section is out of kilter with what ‘real’ Arsenal fans think. Well, I’ve always staunchly disagreed with this idea. If you go to the ground, you’ll know what the vibe is like and people aren’t happy. It’s no longer a minority. As was pointed out to me, a minority want Wenger out, the majority are unhappy with him and want him to change. This was a view shared by fans spanning generations. That was clear from last nights meeting. So don’t listen to people telling you that you’re a bad supporter for being concerned.
Overall, the event was very interesting, the most important thing to come out of it was that the AST will be recommending that all small shareholders and Fanshare owners do not sell out. Fan involvement is essential to the future of Arsenal. We need people speaking up for the club at all levels, by going private, we lose that power. I’m not pro either party taking over, I’m pro keeping our club special, I’m pro fan involvement and I’m pro for long-term stability and a return to winning ways.
Matt Scott of the Guardian made a very interesting comment about dissenting voices. It’s pertinent because many fans think it’s disrespectful to disagree with the club, the manager or the board…
‘As Arsenal fans, speak up, don’t become what you perceive Pat Rice to be to Arsene Wenger’
Absolutely spot on, this club is where it is today built of the back of fan loyalty, we have a right to an opinion… don’t ever forget that.
Hopefully the way things are playing out, we’ll keep our voice at the club.
That’s a healthy position to be in.
See you in the comments!
P.S. It was great to meet some of the good guys from twitter prior to the event and it was fantastic to have few beers with the AST members, the gooner journo’s plus two prominent figures from the Gooner. I also met Maria, one of Arsenal’s most prolific fans.
To say it was an orgie of Arsenal would be an understatement… I’m off to shower down.
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