By Tony Attwood
One of the great assumptions made by people who wish for major change at Arsenal is that a new owner is bound to be better than the existing owner.
Unfortunately there is not much evidence around to suggest that this might always be the case. While Chelsea supporters will be pleased to have won trophies that Arsenal have not won, the few Chelsea regulars that I know are not so happy with the change of managers, or indeed the current manager’s approach.
The supporters of Málaga are probably not so happy with their current owner, who at one time was seen as a saviour, as they have been banned by Uefa from international competition for four years for debts owing to other clubs. Or for the fact that they have recently sold Rondón, Joris Mathijsen, Cazorla, Monreal and Diego Buonanotte.
Indeed I can’t imagine too many fans of Inter Milan are happy with the way their club is being run, as they currently sit 7th in the Italian league. José Mourinho had given them everything (well the treble) but the owners let him slip away as they appointed Rafael Benítez who they then had to sack six months into a two year contract.
Besides such clubs Arsenal appear as a haven of stability and good sense.
But in making such a point I must surely bring in one other British example of what owners can do to a club: Blackburn Rovers.
And I do this not to pass my own comment on Blackburn, but rather that of a judge who in court described their modus operandi as “utterly unforgivable.”
The issue in question concerns Henning Berg who was awarded £2.2m in unpaid wages after being manager for 57 days last year.
The club agreed to meet the manager’s request to have his three-year contract paid up in full. But then in the High Court the club suddenly said they had changed their minds. They did this after they had agreed a deadline for filing papers, and caused Judge Pilling to say their actions were “entirely contrary to the way justice is supposed to be served”.
During the course of this crazed dispute Blackburn’s owner hired new solicitors who were instructed to claim that Rover’s MD, Derek Shaw, did not have the authority to give Berg a contract which included this severance allowance in the first place. Meanwhile Shaw is being disciplined and perhaps sacked by Rovers for not following orders.
But Berg’s side then presented a press release which appeared on the Rover’s web site which says that Shaw has the complete support of the owners, and the Berg contract was not an issue.
The club claimed in court that the press release, entitled “Owners respond to Berg rumours” was “not true”. However I have just been on their web site (14.07 BST Wednesday 17 April) and the press release is most certainly there.
But as the judge said, a disciplinary letter was sent 24 hours before the press statement and directly contradicts it.
Rovers’ explained that their “global adviser” Shebby Singh couldn’t get to Blackburn to talk to Shaw because he couldn’t get a visa.
Judge Pilling then granted the club’s barristers the chance to argue that Berg’s contract is not valid because Shaw was not authorised to offer it.
The Judge argued that the case was “guaranteed just to waste time and money”. The matter was made worse when the club’s solicitors’ application claimed it was providing a witness statement in support of the case, but then did not provide it.
Next up an unsigned witness statement was sent.
Then after that a signed version of the witness statement was presented to the court. Only it was different from the first one.
OK this is all Blackburn, and Blackburn are a laughing stock – but it does show that the argument that somehow Arsenal (the club that can build the Emirates) is badly run, after being run so well during the double double period and the unbeaten season, is wide of the mark.
New owners might bring in new money, but they also might insist on taking total control, no matter what.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches
- Royal Arsenal: from the Common to the Manor. Coming next.
The sites from the same team…
- Referee Decisions – just what are the refs up to this season?
- The Arsenal History Blog from the AISA Arsenal History Society