Will Stan sell out - like all his predessesors?
Feature by Brian Dawes
Updated Monday, 3rd December 2012
Its not just our new owners who seemingly don't give a toss...
Not one of them has put any money into the Club whereas almost every single one of them has massively lined their own pockets by selling their shares. Who needs dividends when you can make a fortune anyway? Despite all the holier than thou old bollocks that Arsenals old school custodians have spouted over the years Arsenal Football Club tried to sell out to Carlton as long ago as 1998 while Dein was still around and who must have been set for a bit of pocket lining. It didn't happen then, but Dein subsequently threw his toys out of the pram at a later date and walked away with £70 million or so, his loyalty clearly available to the highest bidder - that and his desire to spite fellow board members at that particular time. Dein it seems wanted to cart us off to Wem-ber-lee on a cheapskate rental agreement, other board members wanted to up the value of our club by building a new home before selling out for their own 30 pieces of silver. This was just one battle of the money-men where Fizsman pissed all over his old friend Dein. No honour amongst thieves as they say. Or is it no honour among board members - I forget. Anyway these were just two of the men who sold out our Arsenal. It's been one big disruptive fight in the boardroom ever since the late '90's, at least that's how it looks to me.
The little loved old has-been Peter Hill Wood still treats fans disdainfully, he has done so for years, yet he long since sold his family's Arsenal birthright for hard cash. His father and grandfather, both long-term and relatively honourable Chairmen of the club would have been appalled at his behaviour. About £5.5 million was what his remains of the family heirloom went for. He once famously told Dein there was no money in football and yet has clung on to the Chairman's post like a petrified limpet several decades past it's sell-by date. Hill Wood has been the perpetual patsy and front man for them all, including Fiszman who had almost as much to say as silent Stan. Saint Danny Fiszman sacked our only director who had the first clue about football (Dein) before upping the value of his own holdings by building a new stadium and redeveloping our old one. He partially did this by belatedly bringing in a CEO (Edelman) who neither knew nothing, nor cared nothing about football. Edelman's idea of a new home was to leave it covered in bare concrete and if rumours are to be believed he paid off building bills with money allocated for team spending. We were not told why he was sacked, just as no-one was told why Dein was sacked. But back-stabbing is par for the course in Arsenal's board room. Ask Nina, David or Keith.
Fiszman's estate made £143m plus, but did he sell because he knew he was dying or because he was looking to sell anyway. I can't say I know for sure but it felt to me then, and retrospectively more so, as if the board had been looking to cash in on the golden goose for quite some time. Fiszman simply speeded the process whilst upping the value with our stadium move. Whilst incidentally ensuring his personal tax bill was kept at bay with his move to Switzerland. Events seem to prove that almost each and every one of them were all too delighted to cash in and piss our heritage, retained in their custodianship, up the river.
Did Fiszman even actively look for a massively rich Arsenal fan or group of fans who cared? No Fiszman sold out to a disinterested American who collects sports teams as some sort of hobby. Someone previously rejected by our owners because he arrived via David Dein, who happened to be that week's arch-enemy. 'We don't want his sort' was the phrase deployed by Hill-Woodentop. Danny boy was also very keen not to sell to the Oligarch Uzbekistani another outsider lined up by David Dein and so Kroenke was thus the easy preferable option when the time came. It seems Kroenke may not even have to put all his readies up front. So what we have here now is yet another piece of English heritage, namely our Club, in the hands of yet another couldn't-give-a-shit-American. Stan 'zip-lip' Kroenke doesn't actually do anything with his sports teams he just collects them, he shows no interest whatsoever in Arsenal and leaves a lap dog to front up the Club. Just as he leaves others to front up his other assets. Not spending money despite already having already made massive paper financial gains for doing jack shit is all Kroenke has done with Arsenal. He doesn't even see why he should speak at the AGM. He won't discuss his policy for our Club's future because it very much looks as though he has no policies. But then why would you need policies if the Club's gone up in value by about £280,000,000 since he's taken over as owner.
You will note that Dein managed to fall out with Fiszman whom he introduced to the Club by selling him 10,000 shares in 1991 and also fell out with both Kroenke and Usmanov whom he also introduced. The only ones who still care much for Dein are a number of fans who think the sun still shines out of his arse because he was a 'genuine fan' who could relate to fans and introduced Wenger. I'd suggest he has only ever been motivated by his love of money and his own ego.
The one honourable exception to all these dog-eat-dog boardroom shareholders is Ken Friar, an outsider who once effectively ran the Club that has now twice begged him to come back from his well-earned retirement.
As for the other long-term custodians of The Arsenal the Bracewell-Smiths long-term historic holding was subsequently given away by Lady Nina. I say given away but she actually got well over £100 million for her 15.9% stake. Nina too was both dragged onto the board and subsequently kicked off it when it suited them. Richard Carr a perennial boardroom non-entity in his day creamed a trifling £40 million from Kroenke, despite their historic connection he and his family were only too happy to cash in big time.
Did any of them lift a finger to assist the Arsenal Supporters Trust. No, not one of the miserable two-faced money-grubbers lifted so much as an index finger. So we are now stuck with two owners: Jabba a part time resident in London who at least watches some games but whom no one wishes to touch with a barge pole, certainly not their own barge pole. All he's done thus far is take a 30% stake and shit stir whenever the opportunity arises. The effective owner is out absentee landlord with no discernible polices. A man who resides on the other side of the pond and does nothing. Nothing other than wear a rather naff rug. By doing nothing I mean he takes no active part and has no stated policy for the future, he also clearly has only a very minimal interest in football, and quite evidently even less in the Club or the team. He and his minions have minimal control over the manager who has clearly been provided with zero guidance for years by a bunch of warring rich boys.
What more could we possibly want from a board?
Well apart from not selling our best players each season (board's score for not selling our best players each season 1/10), tying down our better players on longer contracts (2/10), purchasing some additional top quality players with what money we have earned (3/10), a clear policy for team building (2/10). Other than an improvement to the above what I'd really like is a proper football board which has a game-plan (3/10), that gives a shit for its hard-core fans (2/10), that cares about winning trophies (1/10), that knows a bit about football (1/10), that gives football the priority over money-making (0/10). Without this the Club is simply a rudderless ship run by a board whom inspire no confidence whatsoever. The Club is currently being allowed to drift and they've been drifting for quite a few years, just as they were for 25 years or so after WW2.
All the current intent and direction being shown is financially inspired. It obviously needs to be inspired by football but they've lost track of this very obvious fact. It needs to be all about the football. Myself I don't even demand trophies, just a team that looks like it is intent on winning some. Not any old trophies mind, just the real ones. I don't give a flying fart for the League Cup. I'd like to really see us challenge for the League rather than vie for a place in the Champions League. I'd like to see us really battling it out with the top Clubs in Europe rather than just gaining a few quid from the Champion's League kitty. Thank goodness the board kept Wenger at the helm during these turbulent and stressful financial times, few other managers could have kept sane in such disruptive times. Not that the board would have known whom to appoint in Wenger's stead, they don't have a footballing brain between them and ever employ outsiders to headhunt new CEO's.
When Mr. Wenger joined the shares were worth £280, they now stand at £16,000 plus. Compare that with the rest of the World's economy and shake your head in total wonder. That in it self has been a major reason for the board not even considering any options to Mr Wenger rather than for his footballing achievements. Not that they would understand his massive achievements in keeping our Club near the top during its recent upheavals anyway. But like I hinted they wouldn't ditch Wenger because they wouldn't have a clue whom to appoint. Unless they consult the experts - but we fans have never ever had any say have we?
Please note. I've attempted to be reasonably accurate with the number crunching but accept that the figures are unlikely to be anything like 100% accurate.
(Read more at The Highbury Library)