Monday 26 October 2015

FIFA Presidency - time for a someone from anywhere but Europe & North America

Joao Havelange was FIFA President when I was growing up.  A giant of a man. He had the swagger and profile of any charismatic or powerful President or Head of State of any super power nation.

Havelange was the Blatter before Sepp Blatter was in diapers. And the world was a different place then, none of these transparency thingymabob. The world was opaque and shadowy figures ruled politics, sports and business.

The world has changed. Today, when people go on and on about the grandiosity of Sepp Blatter, I can immediately guess how old they are or realise how out of touch they were in those days before social media and Internet. Those days when you had to hunt for your news.

We now live in a new world. Transparency is every body's watch word. Corruption is a big issue and rightly so as the proceeds of corruption is fanning the emblems of many crimes around the globe.

FIFA to every body's knowledge has been under the intense spotlight of the America's FBI. Before then, several salacious stories have been swirling around FIFA. The FBI focus has confirmed what was been whispered or insinuated. FIFA is corrupt, rotten to the core. I'm even surprised that there is a functioning bureaucracy / administration after the FBI arrests in May 2015.

The events since then evidently points to massive / industrial scale corruption within FIFA. But should this be surprising though. FIFA runs arguably the World's most prestigious and richest sports event. FIFA is effectively like the United Nations, it transcends the laws of any country and is in reality answerable to no one. Is it a surprise that corruption thrives where there is opportunity and very little accountability?

So yes FIFA is corrupt. BUT BUT BUT. Was the FBI altruistic? Did they love football so much that they wanted to clean it up? Or was this another opportunity for America to annex another global organisation and place it under its thumbs? We will find out more when the FIFA cases are eventually heard in court. For this reason, however, I will be suspicious of any North American President of FIFA. To me this will be the next step in making sure FIFA does the bidding of America.

When the FIFA arrests stories broke, the European football fraternity and their media were very quick to distant themselves from Blatter's FIFA. I was amazed back then that a man like Platini could dare to position himself as the person to clean up FIFA. What bloody cheek. Fast forward 5 months later, it has all come out in the wash. Platini is part of the problem and should not be entrusted with the global administration of football.

In my opinion, ever since Blatter empowered 3rd world countries within FIFA and gave them a voice, the knives of the European football fraternity has been out for him. They are not happy at Mr Blatter's attempt to diversify football by ensuring Asian and African countries host the World Cup and participate fully. Europe has watched its dominance of football drain away and was quite eager to use Blatter's comeuppance as a backdoor to controlling global football again. I hope they fail and I hope a non European, none American succeeds Blatter as FIFA President.

Global football will be better for it. The beautiful game is for everybody, not just for Europe or the superpowers.

Sunday 18 October 2015

My Thoughts on the Arsenal AGM & the £3m payment to Kroenke Sports Enterprises

I have toyed with the idea of writing about other subjects in the past few weeks but I am yet to find the motivation to do so. Watching Arsenal, reading about Arsenal, writing about Arsenal is infinitely more rewarding than most subjects at this time.

This is because Arsenal is on a good run in the Premier League. The talent of the team is showing through and many players are either stepping up or maintaining their already high standards. If you combine all of these with the perception that Manchester City are not going to run away with the title this season like Chelsea did in the last one and that the previous winners are not playing well at the moment and are unlikely to mount a decent defence of their title, you are likely to come to the conclusion the premier league title is wide open this season and Arsenal like Manchester United have a fair chance of glory. It is fair to say that there is an air of incredible optimism amongst the Arsenal fan base although to be fair we have been here many times before.

Yes there is cause for optimism if you are an Arsenal fan, but very worrying is what appears to be the schisms within the fan base. There are notable and well known groups like the Pro and Anti Arsene Wenger group; we have the 'Ozil is shit' group and the 'Ozil is so good you can't appreciate what he does with the naked eye' group. There are also other groups who think Coquelin is the best defensive midfielder in Europe and others who think Bastian Schweinsteiger as a World Cup winner is better than Le Coq. There are also others who think Per Mertesacker (another world cup winner) is rubbish and any championship central defender is better than our very own BFG. There are also many who oppose the way the majority owner and directors are running the club and want all of them out with Alisher Usmanov running the show.They obviously assume Usmanov will be as generous as the Chelsea owner while I think different times, different place, different era and wonder if these sae people will tolerate the hiring and firing mentality of the Abramovich era or the turgid win at all costs mentality. Perhaps a topic for another day.

What I find amusing about the different Arsenal groupings is the fact that membership of one group does not exclude you from membership of the other. You even find the more pathetic ones who are 'Wenger Out' today and 'Wenger Messiah' tomorrow depending on what garbage Piers Morgan has spewed on Twitter. Never mind Piers, a man who loves to insert himself into any controversy guaranteed to get him the attention he notoriously craves. Less said about the toad the better.

Anyway back to Arsenal and the AGM. I have read many accounts of the annual meeting and I would  summarise the following as highlights from what I have read

  • The club is unwilling to offer a proper explanation on the £3m paid to Kroenke Sports Enterprise (KSE)
  • The Board & the owner will never sack Wenger. They are very happy with the way the club plays football and the overall performance of the team
  • Arsene Wenger cares deeply about the club, he is ambitious for more success and wants to leave a legacy while remaining committed to his contract.
  • The club considers some people noise makers  (I'm looking at you Piers Morgan) and will not spend money just to satisfy people if they can't find quality players to make the squad better

There are other points, but the above are what I consider relevant.

I am delighted that the club is effectively sticking two fingers at the 'Wenger Out' brigade and I do hope the anti Wenger lot will pay heed and realise that they are wasting their energy. Focus all your enthusiasm on supporting the club if you are genuinely a fan. At this time Wenger is the manager of the club you claim to support and the people who make the decisions are not going to change Wenger irrespective of your views about him.

On the issue of the £3m to KSE, I find all the repeated questions boring and a waste of valuable time and energy. I hope the people who are bothered about the payment to KSE realise that Arsenal's 2015 turnover is £344m. So KSE have collected 1% of this. Also Arsenal made a profit of £24m and the payment to KSE represent 12.5% of the group net profit. Please let that sink in. How much of a big deal is this £3m?

Yes the club are not giving a cogent explanation and are very tetchy about the repeated annual questions but maybe this is because they can't genuinely give an explanation because its a disguised dividend payment. If it is, Mr Alisher Usmanov should be screaming his head off because he deserves about half of that money. He has rightly written to the board for an explanation and we have heard nothing further. I would take it he has received satisfactory explanation which leads me to the next reason why the board have not answered the £3m payment question to our satisfaction.

Is it inconceivable that the directors are unable to provide what appears to be a straight forward answer because they do not wish to disclose some proprietary / confidential information that helps with Arsenal's competitiveness? The chairman reportedly pointed to the FA cups and the Community Shield as the outputs of the service KSE render to the club. Are we perhaps second guessing the board and the chairman? If you genuinely think they are lying why don't you write a petition to the Serious Fraud Office or the Police or to the Department of Business detailing what is obviously a malfeasance by the directors and stop all these merry go round at the AGM. Are we going to edure the sane question every year?

Alternatively the directors might consider the question such an irrelevance and not worth dignifying with a nut and bolt answer as the £3m payment to KSE represents about 1% of the overall expenses of the club.

I really worry about the repetitive nature of this £3m payment question. Why don't these people query the money we spend with the Coach Hire company, or the hotels, the football agents etc. We expend considerably more money in these other areas and in the interest of transparency, these expenditures should receive the same level of interest. But they don't because KSE is not related to these other areas.

I think the noise and anger is down to the fact that we the fans do not like the fact that the owner appears to be taking money out of our beloved club. I admire the emotions traditional fans especially those with historical ties to Arsenal invest in the club but are they perhaps clinging to an illusion that no longer exist? Why did the old style shareholders (the descendants of Samuel Hill - Wood & Sir Bracewell Smith) sell their shares? They either needed the money or they recognised that the club needed the money of these big hitters (these new style owners we hate so much) to move into the future. These new style owners have a way of operating and unfortunately one of those ways is what KSE are doing and what the Glazers are doing at Manchester United.

We Arsenal fans are bloody fortunate and do not realise it. Every year Manchester United spends in excess of £30m on debt servicing. Debt that wasn't used to build Old Trafford or Carrington or to pay the enormous wages of Wayne Rooney. This was debt for debt sake. Let that sink in Asenal fans. That £30m is the  equivalent of adding a player the quality of Alexis Sanchez to your squad every year and that is on top of your other regular player purchases etc.

I can't believe that any serious Arsenal fan is complaining about £3m paid to KSE. In 2011 we bought Sebastien Schillaci from Sevilla for £4m, a million more than we are moaning about on KSE and then proceeded to pay Schillaci something in the region of £60k per week. Every year for 3 years, the club was handing out £3.1m to Schillaci. I didn't see any fan or shareholder moan about this every year at the AGM. What did the club get from Schillaci? The square root of NOUGHT. Yet we moan that KSE even after the directors say they get tangible benefit for the payment.

Why do we focus on inanities? Did anybody think it fit to ask about a succession plan because much as we all love Arsene Wenger, he is not immortal. Did anybody ask what realistic football targets are set at the beginning of the season and what is the minimum expectation from the squad every season? Did anybody ask if there is a scope to expand the Emirates to take advantage of the 80,000 plus season ticket waiting list? No. Nobody did. We are wondering what happened to 1% when the there is  scope to significantly improve the size of our operations and keep pace with the Manchester Uniteds of this word financially.

I call on Arsenal fans to focus on the football. Support the team, be a genuine 12th man instead of the inanities that lead no where. With our concerted 12th man support, ARSENAL CAN ACHIEVE A LOT MORE.

Monday 5 October 2015


Looking at social media today, you will be convinced that Arsenal Football Club have suddenly won the English Premier League, the Champions League, the Europa League and World Club Championship all rolled into one, following yesterday's match at the Emirates.

What is wrong with Arsenal FC fans?

If you must know, Arsenal only defeated what can be realistically considered a very expensive pub side. A team filled with 'has beens' on their last legs. Arsenal got lucky yesterday by playing against a 'has been' manager in King Louis Van Gaal. A man who was doesn't understand or do tactics, a man who is past it and no longer has anything to offer football. In my opinion, he is too old.

However Man United have an excuse, anything was / is better than David Moyes - Ian Holloway, Phil Brown, Stuart Pearce. Anything or anybody. Fortunately, for them, LvG will be gone in the next 2 years and will hand over the crown jewels of the football world to the King in waiting - Ryan Giggs. True scion of Fergie who will then restore all the lost glory of the Red Devils kingdom - GGMU.

Back to Arsene. I don't know what the AKB brigade see in the man. Can't they read? Don't they watch TV? Haven't they heard what THE BEST MANAGER IN THE WORLD (Jose Mourinho) called Wenger - "Specialist in Failure". Cant they see all these things many people write about Wenger on social media and in the newspapers? Why should any reasonable person be in AKB brigade?

In all my 10 years of following football, Wenger has won nothing of note. NOTHING. Soon it will be 11 years. Please please don't get me started about FA cups. Those are not proper trophies. Real clubs don't take cup competitions seriously. Millwall FC almost won the FA cup a few years ago, A League 2 club like Portsmouth won it recently so please spare me your comments about the FA cup.

As everybody knows, winning the Premier League or Champions league is the Holy Grail and as Gary Neville, the best football pundit in the world said, "Arsenal can never win the league again under Wenger". So why do we stick with Wenger?  If you know football, you will  know that if Arsenal was managed by Jose Mourinho in the last 10 years, we will win the league every year, our team will be the best  team ever. Arsenal will never play rubbish football like we did against Dynamo Zagreb, Olympiakos and Monaco. We will absolutely monster them. Also, if Pep Guardiola was managing Arsenal, we will win the Champions League every year. So why are we allowing Arsene hold Arsenal back?

With Arsene, we can never be as successful as great club sides like Liverpool, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Aberdeen - great club sides who have won the European League, in Liverpool's case, 5 TIMES. Arsene has condemned Arsenal to also ran in Europe. Liverpool fans will forever have bragging rights over Arsenal fans.

And just to demonstrate how ambitions Liverpool FC are, they have just fired the manager who almost won them the league. They are going to employ the most forward looking manager in Europe in Jurgen Klopp. In Klopp, Liverpool are about to appoint a guaranteed winner. I wonder why many Arsenal fans don't think like Piers Morgan, a man who is very knowledgeable about football and a very likeable person who loves Arsenal football club more than most. He has said that Arsenal should sack Wenger and appoint Klopp. WE SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM PEOPLE. The Board of Arsenal should send a big delegation to Germany tonight and beg Klopp to come and manage Arsenal.  But will we?

I'm sure we will not. Why on God's earth do we stick with Wenger? The man seats on a pile of cash, a £200m pile to be precise and refuses to sign players. Why couldn't he have just offered £100m to Real Madrid for Benzema. Thump the table with the money like Man U did for Martial and watch Florentino Perez hand over Benzema in double quick time.

Why didn't he offer to pay £250k per week to Schneiderlin? Why did he allow Manchester United sign a player who appears tailor made for Arsenal? How can he prefer Coquelin who was playing in the championship a few months ago, to a proven performer like Schneiderlin?

Why didn't Wenger offer £90m to PSG for Cavani, a man who could have become Arsenal's own Suarez. Even Liverpool have spent over £300m on players in 3 years. What has Arsene done? Nothing. Unquestionably the man is ruining Arsenal.

He has managed Arsenal for too long. The job of Arsenal Manager is not a traditional title. Please he has done enough, let him go. The Arsenal Board should approach Pep Guardiola this very minute. Pep's contract at Bayern Munich expires at the end of this season, he will definitely be interested in managing Arsenal knowing that we already play his style of football. And with our £200m cash, Pep can bring Muller, Lewandoski, Gotze, Alaba and Neuer to the Emirates in one transfer window. Something Arsene can never do.

Guys. Its time to sack Wenger. Our club Arsenal is going back. FA cup is nothing,  Since Wenger cannot deliver the holy grail like the pundits say, he should go. We have had enough.