By Tony Attwood
I was going to leave the AGM, and let it be. I was there, I watched and listened, and talked to fellow members of the club on the AISA Arsenal History Society stand, which we were granted by Arsenal.
So I’ve said my piece in an earlier article, but then I read the Guardian article, and I thought. “Fuck, I was at the wrong show.” Then I thought “No – they were at the wrong show.
According to the Guardian, and I quote:
“Arsenal have never seemed further removed from their original dictum. Victoria Concordia Crescit (Victory Through Harmony) seemed like a distant memory as supporters made clear their discontent…”
Oh if only the Guardian had shown an interest in reading a bit of real and proper history, instead of the history made up by their AAA allies. A distant memory? You don’t even have to go out and buy a copy of The Crowd At Woolwich Arsenal FC (and we had copies on sale on our stand at the AGM) to know that Woolwich Arsenal were regularly booed and jeered by their own supporters when they failed to move quickly up the league from division two in 1893 to champions of the first division in 1894. The AAA dates from the foundation of the professional league club.
Then the Guardian says, “and the board members snapped back”. To see how much this is part of the tradition of Arsenal AGMs all you have to do is look at the time when Sir Henry Norris (rescuer of the club in 1910, builder of Highbury, hirer of Herbert Chapman,) was kicked off the board of the club. Reports of AGMs being suspended and the police called in are common place. We’ve even done reports on the Arsenal History blog.
“Some of the exchanges were personal, prickly, and the atmosphere became quite sour. It was not such a surprise to see the shareholders aiming verbal bullets at the board members on the plinth, but it was highly unusual for the snipes to be returned.”
Oh come on. Snipes returned? It was the same boring old argument that the AAA has waged against Untold. The AAA says, get money, somehow, anyhow, borrow it, bring in a rich Russian, put up prices, any old thing, but get money, and compete with Chelsea, PSG and Man C.
The board says, all that happens if you do that is that Chelsea et al pour in more and more money and wages and transfer fees go up more and more. Unless you own half the oil fields of Russia you will never win. Better to work with the vast majority of clubs in the Premier Leagues to bring in our own Financial Fair Play regulations. Mr Gazidis felt sure they would happen, with or without Uefa – there’s an article on Untold which goes through the maths. We were not sure if there was enough support: Mr Gazidis is closer to the action.
Here’s another guardian piece “Gazidis had a sharp retort for someone who lamented that Robin van Persie’s departure was humiliating. “I’m not sure if that is a question or an expression of angst,” smarted the CEO, before ticking off another dissenter for monopolising the microphone as he tried to restore order.”
Oh really! There was no breakdown of order. One question-asker was dominating the microphone and boring the shit out of the rest of us who wanted to hear other issues debated. There was no disorder. And the response of Gazidis was actually a lot more interesting and amusing than anything else that was said by the questioners.
“Inside the cavernous hall, as long as the sidelines of the Emirates pitch” says the Guardian. A point of detail, and not that important, but no, we were in one of the many club level areas, and actually behind the goal. 700 seats were laid out. I know because I put an Arsenal History Society leaflet on each one of them. It gave me back ache. And unlike the guardian reporters I took the trouble to look out of the window at the pitch.
“The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust had its manifesto, the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association its pamphlet” – yes Guardian. So why not tell us about our pamphlet. I think it is rather good and worth a mention. (Mind you I wrote it).
Mr Wenger said, “We have to be united. I accept every different opinion but it looks to be like the modern world produces little groups of little opinion. The little communities need to live together for the common strength of our club, for the good of Arsenal. The Guardian said, “he preached”. What absolute nonsense. It was a lucid speech delivered without notes in the man’s third language.
“Arsenal remain, for now, a club caught between their internal ideal of a sustainable business and external pressure to be bolder with their resources in search of success.” No they are not. Arsenal has made a decision to push for the Premier League’s own FFP rules and support Uefa’s rules – which have already started to have an effect with numerous clubs banned or fined already. As Mr Gazidis reported. And then explained further when a member of the audience failed to quite grasp what Uefa is doing. (a read of Untold would have helped him too).
Here’s a last bit of gibberish from the Guardian. “Arsenal’s board have pinned their hopes on Financial Fair Play, and a slew of new commercial deals in 2014, to help them to find a silver lining. In the meantime, the outlook remains cloudy.”
“Pinned their hopes” indeed. It is called strategy. It is carefully thought through and planned. It is well organised. It is clearly analysed. Discussions have gone through with every other club in the EPL.
Pinning hopes relates to putting a £1 into the lottery as a way of getting out of debt. This use of language is all wrong. It gives a totally wrong reflection of what happened at that meeting. And given that the Guardian is written by people who know their English one cannot but assume that we are back to the old Bash-the-Arsenal approach. But why?
700 people were in the hall, and an early speaker urged everyone to vote against the re-election to the board of those who were standing again. 17 people did. 17 out of 700. Fractionally over 2% of the AGM voted to oust the board.
If that is a revolution in the making, goodness knows what peace looks like.
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