Arsenal: Self sustaining model or vulture capitalism?
The response in the wake of RVP refusing to renew a new contract from those who run Arsenal or have a stake in the club reveals an unholy mess. Alisher Usmanov threw a bombshell in his letter and as odious a piece of PR opportunism as it was, it did contain some allegations that will be hard to disprove. Particularly, the club increasing ticket prices and spending less transfer money to drive up the stock price so that former shareholders could make more money when selling their shares. In short, the self financing model has been very, very good to these shareholders to cash out their millions in personal profits.
First of the bat to respond to those charges was Peter Hill Wood, having made a tidy £5.5m selling his shares to Stan Kroenke, who by the way, is still absent from the latest brouhaha to hit the ceiling. Hill Wood covered himself suitably by saying he loved Arsenal and Usmanov’s charge that transfer money was made unavailable to drive up the share price was simply not true.
One of Usmanov’s contentions was that the owners should invest in paying off the stadium debt which was countered by Ivan Gazidis and supported by Hill Wood that early repayment could result in heavy fines. How much can that be? Arsenal are already paying £15m in interest per year on the remaining £98m left on the loan. Surely, the penalties associated with an accelerated repayment scheme would be far less than compounded interest in the millions.
The explanation is unsatisfactory but what Hill Wood says thereafter shows what he thinks constitutes an actual emergency.
“We have run the club sensibly, and we haven’t done badly; it’s not as if we have been relegated.”
The last time Hill Wood was in the oracle business was two years ago when he traveled to Barcelona during the CL quarter-finals to cajole Joan Laporta to keep his hands off Cesc Fabregas and then claimed after the meeting he had been given verbal assurances that they were giving up the chase. It was all games as it turned out. The R word has now officially entered the parlance as a sort of self fulfilling prophecy.
It’s sad when Arsenal’s off seasons have become tabloid stuff to feed a frenzy rather than its performance on the pitch during the season. But that is what the club’s summers have increasingly become. For fans, a period filled with trepidation as to who will be the latest to flee the club. What we have is a snapshot on one side of an aging, out of touch boardroom and on the other, a squabbling bunch of investors incensed at being declared persona non grata. Not good. Not good at all.