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Arsenal AGM 17 October 2013: an Untold report

Arsenal AGM 17 October 2013

Andrew Crawshaw

The Arsenal AGM took place at the Emirates Stadium at 11.30 on Thursday 17th October with some two hundred or so shareholders or their representatives present as well as assorted members of the press and other invitees.

I was there representing a shareholder and these are my thoughts on the meeting, they aren’t a verbatim account but reflect the meeting from my viewpoint.  For anyone who wants verbatim transcripts they are on the official Arsenal website

There were two parts to the meeting; the first being the formal bit, approving the main resolutions relating to the accounts, appointing auditors and re-appointing two board members (Ken Friar and Stan Kroenke) who had served their appointed times.  Unsurprisingly all of this was passed pretty much unanimously so no changes to the members of the board for at least another year.

The only point that was covered in detail in this part of the meeting was to answer a question relating to the purchase of Arsenal Overseas LLC, an American Company for £2.165m which the question alleged was well above its marked value and the question related to the possibility of the company being linked to Mr Kronke or any other board member.  The answer was clear cut that the company was independent and was involved in the acquisition and analysis of football numerics and that buying the firm would greatly enhance our efforts in that field.

The second part of the meeting was much longer and included statements from Mr Kronke and Arsene followed by answers to all of the pre-submitted questions plus some from the floor of the meeting as time permitted.

Mr Kroenke gave a brief speech notable for his statement that “no one at the club will be happy until we have won championships and trophies” (he was clear and unequivocal on this point and it was reiterated several times by Arsene, Mr Gazidis and by the Chairman, Sir Chips Keswick as the meeting progressed).  He aslo said that he had had years of approaches from other teams before starting his involvement with Arsenal.  I got the impression that he intends to stick with Arsenal for some considerable time to come (but that is reading between the lines of his actual words).  Finally he praised Arsene Wenger as being the embodiment of the values that Arsenal stand for and that he was one of the main reasons he became involved.

Mr Wenger gave a much longer speech.

He started off referring to the start of last season and the lack of stability caused by the departure of a player to Manchester United, but contended that from November onwards the team showed a fantastic mental strength.  He expressed disappointment that for the first time in 17 years we lost to lower league teams in both cup competitions but countered with the fact that since March we have lost just one game in 26 or 27.

For me the main thrust of his speech was that the Club’s policy has to be based on three separate levels :-

  1. Continue to defend our style of play, philosophy and values by a continuing and increasing investment in developing our own players with the core of the team coming from within the club.  He cited Szczesney, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Chamberlain and Gnabry as examples of players who have made their debut in the premier league with us.
  2. Intelligence of our eye – our scouting network, connections etc.  That means bringing in players who are unknown but who can become big players and he cited Koscielny and Giroud in that category.  Relative unknowns who are now established in the first team and internationally.
  3. The third part of our development and ambition is to bring in recognised world class players.  He said you don’t need a scout to buy Ozil – just money (which got a laugh).

He went on to say that the economic climate within football is rapidly changing and that there are now perhaps ten teams with a realistic hope of winning the Champions League whereas recently there were probably only four.  The number of clubs with huge funding available is still increasing which is why the future of the club will rely on the quality of the work we do ourselves, just buying big players on its own is not an option for us.

He finished by expressing the hope that “at the end of May we can organise a very positive meeting and that I will have the pleasure of meeting you again.”  Amen to that.

The meeting then proceeded with the questions that had been submitted in advance (my personal comments are bracketed).

Q1 – What are the short and long term ambitions for the club?  Sir Chips Keswick answered this one – Winning trophies

Q2 – This was a question relating to the age and make-up of the board.  Again answered by the Chairman who stated that the board call on younger members of staff, both male and female, for support in all matters and did not consider age an issue.  He will consider further board appointments in due course.

Q3 – Would the board consider a ballot to allocate two seats in the directors box for shareholders? – No way, the directors box is used for high level corporate hospitality and this is not a practical proposition.

Q4 – Supporters in the front six rows of the lower tier regularly get wet when it rains can anything be done to improve the situation?  Mr Gazedis addressed this issue, basically no if you are seated in areas where wind can blow rain then you have to be prepared.  He quipped that Mr Wenger faces the same problem with the additional complication that the zip on his coat doesn’t work (this got a bigger laugh).

Q5 & 6 – Questions on Sponsorship income and not having to rely on player sales to make a profit.  Again answered by Mr Gazidis – The new sponsorship deal with Emirated was mentioned £150m in cash over five years and other sponsorship deals are in the pipeline.  The inference was that we will not have to rely on player sales in the future.

Q7 – A question relating to the payment of dividends to shareholders and Mr Kroenke taking money out of the club in other ways – There will be no change in current policies, so no dividends for any shareholders or money being withdrawn by Mr Kroenke by other means.

Q8 – A question relating to the fanshare meeting – this will be dealt with in a separate meeting with the fanshare representatives.

Q9 – Three linked questions regarding ticketing.  Responded to at length by Mr Gazidis.  Essentially if you are looking for reductions in tick prices then it is unlikely to happen any time soon.  The club still need the money.  He did mention the £2.50 per ticket the club pay this year towards the cost of away matches, the introduction of the third price band for some games, the starting of the £10 tickets for teenagers at some games and the maintenance of £10 tickets for League Cup games as initiatives to make some games more affordable.

Q10 – Engagement with supporters.  Again a response by Mr Gazedis.  He stated unequivocally that Mr Kroenke had met the promises that he made to meet with supporters groups when he bought his shares.  He also stated that he is tasked by both the Board and Mr Kroenke to meet with supporters groups, a task he undertakes assiduously both personally and through other senior staff.  The AGM is viewed as the primary forum for the interface with fans.  The view of the board is that there is no club that interfaces more with the fans than happens at Arsenal.

Q11 – A question bemoaning that only Wilshere has been entirely developed to the first team through the youth ranks.  The response was that £millions have been spent in the past two years in the academy and that a recent survey has shown that Arsenal have produced more professional players than any other academy.  Liam Brady is stepping down at the end of the year to fulfil another role at the club and a new Director is being appointed. (see also Arsene’s view of the players in the first team that have spent time in the academy).

Q12 – Player contracts – The response from Mr Gazedis is that management are continually reviewing contract positions.  Many players are now on long term contracts so that the club is currently in quite a good position.  Whilst we have a relatively small squad all are now fully engaged and the Manager is happy with the position.

Q13 – A question about the signing (or attempted signing) of players with dubious ethics – The club ethos remains as strong as ever and all players are expected to adhere to the club ideals.

Q14 – A question about the relative lack of summer transfer activity.  It was stated that the club were and remain active in the transfer market over past and future targets (watch this space for future signings but don’t believe the names in the press or on the ‘blogsphere’).

Q15 – A question relating to Arsene’s role at the club.  It was stated that the Board are very happy with the Manager’s current role and in the support he has from his staff (no director of football any time soon then).

There were then five questions from the floor :-

Q16 – relating to the role of the NBC in America in publicising the Premier League and heavily featuring a Middlesex club.  Mr Gazedis said that both he and Mr Kroenke had good contacts with and other American broadcasters and would ensure that Arsenal will be involved in future promotions.  He also raised the biggest laugh of the day by pointing out that Mr Bale of the massive pictures in Times Square now plays for a competitor of ours (a cheap shot maybe but not bad on the spur of the moment).

Q17 – The position relating to Mr Usamov why isn’t he on the board and what are his plans for the club?  The Chairman asked for the next question (he ain’t on the board, he ain’t ever going to be on the board and any plans he has for the club aren’t of any interest to the Board so get used to it)

Q18 – Can the club offer any further help, e.g. subsidising rail fares for away fans?  Mr Gazidis firstly praised the away fans for their fantastic support and said that the club had looked at several options to reduce the cost of away support before deciding that the ticket price reduction was the most equitable way possible.

Q19 – Will Arsenal commit to paying all of its staff and ensuring that those working for its contractors receive the London Living Wage?  Mr Gazidis stated that all staff were paid a competitive wage and one that met current legislative requirements.  He stated that the principles of the London Living Wage were well intentioned but that the AGM was not the right place for further discussions (that will be a no at the moment then).

Q20 – A question relating to the 2022 World Cup and the possible impact on up to three seasons domestic competitions if it is moved to a winter slot.  The Chairman announced that he wouldn’t be going to the 2022 World Cup and got another laugh when he added that he would probably be dead by then.  Mr Gazidis added that he knew of the discussions ongoing between both the Premier League and European Club organisations to mitigate the consequences of any such move.  He added that European Clubs haven’t any real control over this matter but FIFA are aware of the need for collaberation.

That ended the meeting.

Despite some press reports there wasn’t any acrimony within the room during the hour the meeting took, the board seemed genuine in what they said and there was no muttering from anyone within my earshot.

Not all of the answers will please everyone but that is always going to be the case.  The makeup of the board is what it is, the ownership isn’t likely to change and both clearly want Mr Wenger to remain at the club in his current role.

19 comments to Arsenal AGM 17 October 2013: an Untold report

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    In answer to the response to Tony’s post earlier – there were no prawn sandwiches. Tea, coffee biscuits and water only. Standard Arsenal brand paper cups for the coffee as well but the coffee was much better than standard fare on match days and there were proper lumps of sugar!

  • rantetta

    Thanks for this report. It saves me from having to look at meedja reports, or Timmy P.

    ‘What about AU’ – next question. I love it.

    What were the refreshments like? Garibaldi’s or Rich Tea’s?

  • rantetta

    Oops, whilst writing, my question has been (a little bit) answered. But what sort of biscuits? I think we should be told.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    A fairly standard mix like you get in most selection boxes. They weren’t posh ones! It was a good cup of coffee though!

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Tim Stillman has his report available via Arseblog News. He covers the answers to some of the questions a little more fully than I have. I don’t think we have any major differences of opinion though.

  • rantetta

    Andrew C

    Thanks for the article and thanks for answering the important catering question.

    The Timmy I’m speaking of – I think his name is Payton. For me Payton is anti-Arsenal. I’ve spent a little time trying to find a video of him talking after the AGM last year or the year before. I can’t find it. Just as well I guess.

    Meanwhile, you could check this video out. I haven’t:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5mK6kPTtio

  • WalterBroeckx

    Thanks Andrew for this excellent write up of the AGM.
    Very interesting and I have the impression that Arsenal are as a whole seems to have a new wind in the sails? this from your article and from the speeches from SK and AW

  • Mandy Dodd

    Thanks Andrew, good to hear some reality of what went on, as opposed to Adrian Durham or the sun reality

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Ranetta,

    Tim Payton of the AST has been courting media this afternoon expressing displeasure about the way the meeting went. As I said from where I was sitting (towards the front) the meeting was handled with a light touch and some genuine humour from those on the podium, some of the gags being off the cuff.

    Regarding my catering, after the meeting, I had an excellent Dennis Bergkamp pie from Piebury Corner with roast potatoes and gravy and can thoroughly recommend them. They are still waiting for a new drinks chiller following their visit by the Ultras on the night of the last European game but otherwise are fully back in business.

  • Unbelievable belief

    Thanks Andrew.
    A clear and succinct report on the AGM.
    No messing about with the board, and no pandering to any fool’s agenda from some ‘look at me!’ Groups.
    A killer one liner from Ivan!
    So he made that on the fly, not to a pre-rehearsed question?

    Loved Sir Chips ”what are the ambitios of the Club?” to win.
    …..and hear the Lamentations of the women.

  • Matt Clarke

    Thank you Mr Crawshaw.
    I was delighted to read,
    “Liam Brady is stepping down at the end of the year to fulfil another role at the club” (emphasis mine)
    Oh Joy! I thought that he was going somewhere else.

    Good to see UA spell ‘Kroenke’ correctly for a change too :p

  • Notoverthehill

    Nice work, Andrew.

    I am puzzled by Mr Wenger referring to the new Chairman, as Mr Chips Keswick?

    Why?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Notoverthehill,. Simple it’s his name, unlikely though that might seem.
    Unbelievable, yes it was made up on the fly. The question came from the floor and I had no indication that it had been staged in any way. He might of course prepared in case a suitable question was posed. Whatever the reason it was a good joke and got an appropriate response.
    Matt, I was also pleased that Liam Brady was said to be moving to another role with the club. No clue was given as to what the role was going to be or who his successor will be so another case of wait and see. I did check the spelling before submitting the article.

  • Good job Andrew!

    Arsenal remains a private entity and the owners have the right to run it as they please. For goodness sake, an owner just made a club change their colours by fiat! It is mighty nice of the Arsenal board to interface with the fans but many of those suffer from delusion of grandeur.

    Great response to the Usmanov question.

  • bjtgooner

    An excellent report Andrew. Pleased to note the response re Usmanov.

  • Tjekem

    Great report Andrew!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice report Andrew , thanks.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sorry , mistyped the e-mail address .
    Nice report Andrew , thanks .

  • anon Gunner

    “They are still waiting for a new drinks chiller following their visit by the Ultras on the night of the last European game but otherwise are fully back in business.”

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/513691/20131014/arsenal-napoli-piebury-corner-arrest-hooligan.htm

    No they weren’t attacked by Ultras, they were attacked by hooligans pretending to be Ultras.