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.

No comments:

Post a Comment