Losing My Arsenal Religion

I’m feeling depressed today. I’m seriously wondering if I can bring myself to splash out next week to renew my season ticket. I said I wouldn’t engage in public naval contemplation about me and Arsenal this time last year but I just can’t help myself.

Some of my depression and sullen aspect is to do with Arsenal. I’m still very angry about the ticket price rises. We don’t need them and it takes the pressure off the club delivering improved commercial income which is where new money needs to come from. I certainly will struggle to find the additional £130 by next Thursday with all the other calls on my declining income. The board just isn’t justified in imposing the increases in a time of economic hardship. I’ve clearly mistaken them for people who care.

The mega-money struggle for the club’s future is also getting right on my wick. Alisher Usmanov has now upped the ante on Stan Kroenke, offering £14,000 a share to Stan Kroenke’s offer of £11,750 a pop. Sorry, mine’s still not for sale. There is a worrying trickle of the eight percent or so of shares to Usmanov now that can be seen by looking at the PLUS Markets website. Usmanov now has to instantly notify each additional share purchased during the period of Stan Kroenke’s offer which is mandated by City takeover rules. I hope any shareholder who wants or needs to sell offers their share to Arsenal Fanshare first.

I’ll be honest. I wish I’d never heard of either Kroenke or Usmanov. The fact that I have is directly the responsibility of the board and former board members David Dein, Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and the late Danny Fiszman. I said when the board created 9.9% of new shares in the club and sold them to Granada TV (now ITV plc) that there was a danger that they’d created a Trojan Horse in the ownership structure. I take no pleasure in saying that I turned out to be right.

The board had the opportunity to do something special. Something uniquely Arsenal. Instead they chose to enrich themselves. This hasn’t benefitted the club by one penny. They did what so many others have done at big English clubs. They cashed in. We’re now in the ironic position of relying on an Uzbek naturalised Russian multi-billionaire to keep the club public and stop an American billionaire Stan Kroenke from taking the club down the path already trodden by Manchester United and Liverpool. As long as Usmanov hangs on to his 27.37% and slowly rising stake then Kroenke can’t take the club private and do what he will with it financially.

There is a chance though that Usmanov’s further purchases may dry up the remaining available shares to such an extent that public trading on the PLUS market is no longer viable due to a lack of shares. That wouldn’t mean that Arsenal Fanshare couldn’t continue. It would mean that this would be by the grace and favour of Messrs Usmanov and/or Kroenke. Not a position I want us to be in.

My preferred option for Arsenal Fanshare was always to buy new equity in the club. This would mean my and every other AFS member’s contributions going directly into the club’s working capital rather than to existing shareholders. That hasn’t come to pass yet. I hope that it does.

In the meanwhile we reliant on billionaires who live in Moscow and Missouri thousands of miles and many time-zones away for the future direction of the club. This is good because? There are those who believe that Usmanov is the man for Arsenal because of his tens of billions. Not me. I want Arsenal to build on strong sustainable financial foundations. Not the whims and caprices of men with no previous connection with Arsenal. Usmanov constantly protests that he loves Arsenal. I suppose it’s conceivable but frankly I doubt it. It strikes me more as an ego-driven trophy purchase, just like many rich men take beautiful trophy wives whom they trust so much they insist on detailed legal pre-nuptial agreements.

Usmanov was given a pardon for alleged offences for which he was imprisoned, serving six years of an eight year sentence on charges of fraud and embezzlement when Uzbekistan was a constituent republic of the old Soviet Union. The pardon was issued by the newly independent Uzbek government which has literally boiled opponents alive. Usmanov may or may not have been guilty of the offences for which he was imprisoned. I wouldn’t take the word of a politically directed Soviet court that he was guilty. Neither would I take the word of the Uzbek government that he was innocent and worthy of pardon however. We’ll likely never know the truth.

My other cause of my agitation is more general. I find the empty, materialistic, self-absorbed, ego-driven lives of so many of the game’s current crop of professionals profoundly depressing. I’m no saint. I enjoy material wealth too. I’m not addicted to empty consumption however. I like to stimulate my mind as well as my bank balance. Driven on by the spivs that leach on all too many top players they constantly circumnavigate the globe in search of ever more lavish financial rewards.

I blame nobody for improving themselves financially but is it really important to be earning £160k a week rather than £100k? Does it make the players happier? I doubt it. It is a short career and players are entitled to do the very best for themselves. I’m just not so sure I want to continue contributing to people who earn millions a year and often put it to no good use for themselves or others.

Greed has become rampant in football. I hate it. Just look at the recent news at Queen’s Park Rangers. Ticket price rises of forty to sixty percent. The club’s response to protests? Tough. If you don’t want your seat, somebody else will have it. Never mind if you were there when Rangers lost to Vauxhall Motors in the FA Cup in 2002. Never mind if you followed QPR in the old Third Division. We don’t give a monkey’s. Show us the money or piss off!

All in all, I’m tempted to become an armchair Arsenal fan and watch the odd match live when it suits me, and take in some Barnet and AFC Wimbledon games. I’m fed up with my loyalty being ruthlessly exploited for every last penny in my pocket.

Article courtesy of Vic Crescit at Arsenal Insider