Sunday’s loss to local rivals Tottenham seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many Arsenal fans. The result has brought a major concern regarding the future of the football club. With Tottenham seemingly on the rise and Chelsea’s limitless funds, Arsenal may find themselves out of Champions League football for the first time in 16 years. Liverpool are a prime example of how difficult it is to break back into the clique of Europe’s elite and the forefront of Arsenal's concern is no longer trophies, nor the bragging rights of North London, but the desperate necessity of Champions League football.
Aside from yesterday’s build-up, for quite possibly the biggest game of the season, was the well timed news that a Middle-Eastern consortium was planning a multimillion pound takeover for Arsenal Football Club. The party in question remain nameless but claim to make a cash offer for 100% of shares, wipe out the clubs debt and provide funds for transfers. This has created a quandary amongst fans with many tired of a trophy drought and others adamant against ignoring the principles and standards Arsenal Football Club has produced.
Due to moving stadiums the finances at Arsenal have been well managed. With reports of profits every year and a large cash reserve in the bank, fans have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of transfer activity and the increase of ticket prices.
I love the match day experience. From the journey on the tube to the effects of a dodgy burger from a hotdog van, you simply can’t beat a day out at the football. However as an Arsenal fan I’ve been priced out of supporting my club. Since the expiration of my junior gunner membership I have had to rely on spare tickets from family and friends. The same situation applies for all Arsenal fans and because of this, there are less fans there for the football and more for the experience. I once paid 75 pounds for a ticket to watch Arsenal’s loss in the Champions League semi-final against Manchester United in 2009. Myself and most others around me were distraught, yet the man sitting directly to my right was too preoccupied with taking pictures of the away fans euphoria than reacting to the disappointing prospect of getting knocked out by a rival team. His seat was wasted. A real fan should have been in the stands that day supporting the team.
Now, whoever was sitting next to me wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game singlehandedly, but at the very least a real fan would have been able to watch and support his team. If a new owner will make ticket prices affordable again then it’s very difficult as a supporter not to want them instated.
The new owners also have the intention of providing money for transfers, something which the club reportedly have, but don’t make use of. World class assets have been sold yet not replaced with equal quality resulting in a spiral of decline in personnel and results. It is criminal that Van Persie, Fabregas and Nasri never had a fully fit season together at Arsenal. Yet now there is a spine of mediocrity and an abundance of dead wood that is reflecting in the team’s current performances.
It is comprehensible that Wenger has been forced to sell our most valuable players to pay off debt and it is understandable that he too, like the fans, has been priced out of spending top dollar for top quality players. Yet this reinforces the need for a potential buyer to free Wenger from the constraints that have shackled him for eight years and allow him to do what needs to be done on the pitch. This season is evidence that the football club can’t keep selling world class players and replacing them with players that aren’t in the same calibre. If Olivier Giroud’s goal scoring ability was as defined as his jawline then Arsenal would be top of the league. Unfortunately, it bears more resemblance to Gervinho’s hairline in the sense that it’s very difficult to find.
This suggests that in order for Arsenal to challenge for the league title and the Champions League they must sign players of an equal standard to their competitors. If a sugar daddy will allow us to keep our best assets and sign a better calibre of player then the team will only improve.
The consortium seem to have given the club an ultimatum stating “you can still justify this extraordinary valuation on the club”. Denoting that this could be the final opportunity for the club to accept such an offer. If Arsenal drop out of the Champions League (which is looking increasingly likely) it will be very difficult to regain a place among Europe’s elite and may lose its position as a worthy investment. Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs will always be attractive destinations and local rivals Tottenham will also become a more promising place to play football if they too gain Champions League status. Can Arsenal afford to refuse this offer and risk losing further status in the league?
Furthermore the reasoning behind moving to Ashburton Grove was to create a self-sustaining business model. Once debt free, Arsenal will be able to generate a sustainable amount of income which should ensure the future of the club. If the owners decide they are bored of playing real life Football Manager, there will be no risk of debt and turmoil as the revenue generated by the stadium will be enough to keep the club afloat.
However could this proposed take-over could be too little too late? If the takeover does happen UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules will be applicable to every club in Europe. 2014 has been fed to Arsenal fans as a promised land of rules and regulations of which Arsenal football club strictly adhere to and the sugar daddy clubs don’t. The purpose of FFP is to:
- to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances;
- to decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees and limit inflationary effect;
- to encourage clubs to compete with(in) their revenues;
- to encourage long-term investments in the youth sector and infrastructure;
- to protect the long-term viability of European club football;
- to ensure clubs settle their liabilities on a timely basis.
(Official UEFA Website)
There would be no need for a multi-billion pound owner if the club aren’t allowed to make use of his bottomless pockets of cash.
Although the tycoons and oligarchs have an abundance of wealth they lack sufficient knowledge of the game. Abramovich has brought success to Chelsea yet under his reign there has been no consistency in the managerial position. Ten different managers have come and gone all seemingly incapable of pleasing the Russian. Roberto Di Matteo was dismissed after winning Europe’s most prestigious trophy for not being able to bring the best out of a 50 million pound signing he didn’t make. Abramovich’s unhealthy obsession with Fernando Torres has resulted in the head of Di Matteo and the appointment of Benitez, much to the displeasure of the fans. However in order to accept Abramovich’s money and the success it brings the fans must also accept his decisions.
Although Wenger divides opinion, the fact that he has been Arsenal manager for seventeen years creates a state of continuity and control. With a new owner, there could be an influx of money but the manager won’t be in control of it all and this could potentially be very harmful towards the club.
Furthermore, a takeover is quite simply not the Arsenal way. Pride, tradition and class is a gargantuan part of being an Arsenal fan. It would be completely hypocritical to follow suit and conform to a situation that is destroying the very essence of football. Class is a word embedded into the history of Arsenal Football Club and to relinquish values and principles for an easy way out is not something neither the club nor the fans will want to become known for.
What is interesting is that Arsenal have been quick to dismiss intentions of selling the club and remain firm that current owner Stan Kroenke has been appointed for the long term. Yet Kroenke, in typical Kroenke fashion, has not made an official comment himself. Personally I can’t understand why Kroenke wouldn’t want to sell. Silent Stan, doesn’t seem to have an interest in football and with Arsenal’s prospects of success teetering on the brink of decline why wouldn’t he want to cash out now before it’s too late.
The hedonistic philosophy manifested in football is completely unsustainable and in time both fans and clubs will suffer. The impact of FFP will not be known until it is introduced and in full flow. I admire Wenger and the current board for taking on a project of magnitude that is such a delicate topic to the lives of fans. I hope that their sacrifices pay off and the project becomes complete, however I will not be surprised if Stan Kroenke bails and makes a fortune for being a good businessman.