July 6, 2012
Well this is nice.
In the space of 24 hours we’ve gone from having one of the most fruitful and productive summers in recent memory to yet again losing our best player, fans turning on each other and the start of what could be a very public and unpleasant war of words between our two major shareholders.
Oh, and it’s raining again this morning. “It’s pathetic fallacy” screams my inner sixth former in a desperate bid to impress.
So yesterday Alisher Usmanov and the other one at Red and White Holdings took the opportunity to kick the club when it was down following Robin’s revelations the previous evening and made public a four page letter addressed to the Arsenal board outlining its concerns regarding the way the club is being run.
Regardless of the content of the letter, all you really need to know about its intent is contained in that line above. They made the letter public. They wrote a missive addressed to: ‘The Board of Directors of Arsenal Holdings Plc: Peter Hill-Wood, Ivan Gazidis, Ken Friar, Sir Chips Keswick, Lord Harris of Peckham, Stanley Kroenke’ and released it to the Associated Press with the clear intention of taking advantage of the Robin fallout and garnering public support.
That’s fine I suppose. We’ve all written private letters to friends expressing concern over their well being and then instead of just sending them released them to the Associated Press. Sometimes you just can’t find a stamp. But it’s a little rich when the letter kicks off with complaints about how the Arsenal board have made:
…some very deliberate and public comments by Ivan Gazidis which were intended to leave the Club’s supporters with an impression that Red & White is in some bitter stand-off with the Board over its desire for a Board seat and that our involvement on the Club’s Board might cause conflict and “destabilize” the Club
The board speak very little about Red and White if they can avoid it. I get the impression they’d rather not speak about them at all. The reference that Gazidis made to them in his Q&A with AST a few weeks ago was in response to a direct question. To accuse them of trying to score points with the public in a letter which you’ve leaked to the public seems hypocritical to say the least.
The second major complaint made in the letter refers to a request received by OJSC Megafon, the Russian mobile phone conglomerate 50% owned by Usmanov from Arsenal requesting a meeting to discuss a sponsorship deal. The intimation is that Gazidis has shown a lack of professionalism in not realising who the major shareholder of the company was but this is far from certain. With Mr Usmanov’s constant references to his desire to do right by the club, perhaps Ivan felt that Megafon might be interested in offering us a Mega deal. And no doubt if you don’t want UEFA to investigate you for attempting to sidestep the FFP regulations when it comes to your massive new sponsorship deal the professional way to approach it would be to send a letter to the targeted company rather than drop a call to your 30% shareholder asking for a cash injection.
Usmanov continues to berate the board for protecting their own investment over the needs of the club itself. He criticises them for failing to look into a rights issue which would effectively mean a dilution of the value of Stan Kroenke’s shareholding unless he was prepared to sink a load of money into the club. If his major concern is simply providing the club with additional funds why not stop bleating on about the unprofessional nature of the Megafon approach and give it the nod. Let’s have some of that cash of yours.
The letter does raise some valid points, chiefly the question of our current owner’s silence over key issues including the current status of the loan which he received in order to purchase the club last year. Despite reassurances to the contrary fans have a right to concerns that at some stage that debt will be shifted on to the club as the Glazers have done at Manchester United. And of course the letter will provoke a fair amount of support from sections of the Arsenal fans which is exactly what it’s designed to do. But equally I think many fans will resent having the club’s name dragged so publically through the dirt, particularly at a time when we need to be concentrating on righting the ship. It’s interesting that two public statements in two days intended to garner support will in the main have the opposite effect.
Still – as ever there are lessons for the Arsenal board. While RVP and R&W have had their say the club are still notoriously quiet. We may prefer not to air our dirty laundry in public but we could still learn a few lessons in public relations. The fanbase is getting antsy and understandably so. We want some reassurance. We don’t want to be the fans paying the most for their ticket prices to see the only top club that keeps selling its best players year after year.
Surely the best riposte to Usmanov’s gloomy claims of our inability to compete under the current model would be to go out and sign the quality replacements that we crave. And in that respect maybe at least the letter is not an altogether bad thing. If it can keep the club on its toes and remind them that selling our best players and failing to adequately replace them is not acceptable then hopefully they’ll work all the harder to put that right. I’ve always been an advocate of the self-sustaining model but I’d really like to see the board go out this year and prove that it’s the right way forward.
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