It may be time to revisit an old conundrum which has divided the fan base for some time, and it regards the very essence of our club. It is an overview of the club’s ownership, and how that affects each of us.
This is not a rant against the club, or its hierarchy, and neither does it come into the category of an ‘I told you so’ diatribe.
Whenever a train of thought regarding the way the club is organized is set out, it encourages a plethora of opinions each of which may be valid in its own right, but which has the effect of confusing the main thrust of the argument.
So, this is a personal musing about a matter that has caused much changing of my mind over the last few years.
Whenever the question is put to me, ‘Do you want Arsenal to win trophies?’ my instant and instinctive response is ‘Yes, of course I do’.
The follow up question is inevitably, ‘Can we do so without a greatly increased investment in quality players?’
Now therein lies the rub, because it is obvious that with all our main competitors, Man City, Man United and Chelsea continuing to spend heavily on the best players available, it would be impossible to win a trophy without Arsenal doing likewise. But if we hold true to our avowed preference for our club to be run on a sustainable model of financial prudence, how do we square these diametrically conflicting requirements?
So by a circuitous route we have arrived, at last, at a clear choice, which is, how do we fund such an investment, and more to the point, how did we arrive at this financial impasse, and should it matter to us, the fans?
When I was a child and started to support the Arsenal, I was not in the slightest bit interested in who owned the club, and how they found the money to run the club. This disinterest extended further than that – I did not know who the owners were, and neither did I care.
It carried on that way until fairly recently, when with access to the Internet and the all devouring media interest in the excruciating minutiae of every Premier League club, we all became aware in painful detail of every aspect of our club’s finances, and ownership, especially after the arrival of Abramovich and the Sheikhs who promptly changed the face of football.
Many fans have expressed the opinion that they would never want an alleged crook like Usmanov to take ownership of the club, and with that view have passively accepted that Arsenal will never be able to compete with the other ‘big’ clubs, but would be content to see us strive to compete and play ‘good football’.
That, if I am forced to admit it, is exactly where I placed myself too. Arsenal were far better than the other money grubbing teams, and we had too much class to follow Chelsea, and the Mancs down the path of mammon, taking ill gotten monies from such sources in order to further our football desires.
Then the thought struck me. This was giving up, and meekly accepting that we were resigning ourselves to a genteel descent into a ‘classy’ but ‘no hope’ future, as we watch the financially well endowed clubs competing for all the available trophies, while we are consigned to mid-table mediocrity. That cannot be right – that is not what Arsenal are all about – it’s not good enough.
The second thought to strike me, with a resounding clunk, is that Arsenal owe their presence in the current elite of football courtesy of Sir Henry Norris, who once owned the club, and not only wangled us into the old First Division by some seedy backroom deals which saw us shortly afterwards winning the First Division Championship, but was later banned as a director of any company, by the High Court, as a result of ‘accidentally’ and illegally taking money out of Arsenal.
So, perhaps our previous owners have not always been so classy and above reproach after all, have they? But thank goodness for Sir Henry!!
The fact is, I have gone full circle in my thinking, and have come to realize that I still don’t care who owns the club, and I still don’t really know who the present incumbent Stan Kroenke is, and what he is all about, or what his personal motives are.
One thing is crystal clear, he obviously does not love Arsenal the way I do, and seems to have very little interest in the club, other than as an investment vehicle, and rarely even watches Arsenal play.
What I also know is that I cannot bring myself to believe that any self made multi-billionaire is so pure that he should have my unquestioning support. The owners and the players will come and go, but my loyalty and support will never change, and my loyalty is to the club, and the team — not the owners, whoever they may be.
It seems to me, that FFP aside, the current oligarch clubs, or their owners, are so powerful that the only way to compete with them is to bring on our own oligarch, perhaps Usmanov, and if he provides us with the funds that will allow us to compete and win trophies, I am happy to join the fans of the other mega-rich clubs springing up all over Europe, and to metaphorically shrug my shoulders and think ‘bring it on!’
My view on Usmanov, is similar to my view on Kroenke, in that I do not know him any better than our current owner, and I suspect as a multi-billionaire he also has a chequered career behind him, but he is probably no better or worse than Sir Henry, and look what that naughty gentleman did for us, turning what was then a mediocre club into a magnificent club, and a hundred years later his legacy still lives on.
Come on you mighty Gunners – jump into the financial arena, and give us a level playing field!
Written by: Red Arse.