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Arsenal: this is not an acceptable way to behave.

By Tony Attwood

Fanshare is a scheme run at Arsenal which gives supporters a chance to have a tiny stake in the club.  With shares in the club running at around £15,000 each, most people can’t buy a share, but they can buy a FanShare.  You don’t get much for it, but you can get into the AGM.

It started in August 2010 with the government applauding it when it came in, and it has been held up as an example of the good side of football ever since.   The Sports Minister of the day, Hugh Robertson, said “It is part of the coalition agreement to encourage supporters to have more representation at their clubs.  Arsenal’s proposal is an enlightened and forward looking way of doing this and makes it affordable for their fans to own a part of their club. Clearly it is for individual clubs to decide, but this is a model I’d like to see other teams explore.”

Ivan Gazidis spoke very much of favour of it at the time saying,“We believe it is fundamentally helpful to the club to have supporters who are active and engaged.  The important thing is that supporters are valued and nurtured, not exploited. That is good for the club’s soul, and for its all-round health.”

Arsenal advertised the scheme in its membership pack in the first season and ran adverts for it regularly.

And it is about to come to an end – with those people who supported the scheme about to lose some of their money, all because Arsenal have pulled out of backing the scheme.

There are just under 2000 members and the scheme has funds of about £2m.

But following the mass buy up of shares by Kronke, the owner, and Red and White, the vehicle of Usmanov, shares are hard to come by.  Fanshare has suggested Arsenal might create some new shares – shares that would hardly water down the ownership of Kronke, but which would give the fans something back.  But that has not happened.

So there are hardly any shares for sale, and Kronke doesn’t want to create new shares.   Thus the scheme is going to be wound up, unless someone backs away from entrenched positions.

Now there is no question of the Fan Share members not getting the bulk of their money back.  The problem is that members won’t get all of it back.  Because there is a penalty clause for pulling out of the scheme, and there are legal costs etc in winding up the scheme and the members are going to have to pay this.

Arsenal, as things stand, are not even going to put a little bit of cash (tiny in terms of Arsenal) to pay back this difference.  Fans will lose out a little because the money has just sat in the fund, not earning any interest – but that is trivial because interest rates have been so low.

But now real money will be lost.

Compare and contrast the behaviour of Stan Kronke in this with the behaviour of Henry Norris in 1910.  Henry Norris, a man who was virtually written out of Arsenal history books as an evil bastard until the AISA Arsenal History Society came along and examined exactly what the man did.

Arsenal were bust in 1910, and about to go out of existence.   He and a fellow director paid off all the Arsenal debts – not just the “football debts” as they are so quaintly called today, but all of them – including at least one for work on the Manor Ground years before, which was not revealed when he took over the club.

He then kept the club in Plumstead for three years, even though it was loss making on a horrendous level, to give local supporters a chance to buy shares in the club.

Eventually in 1913 when they did not buy shares he moved Arsenal to Highbury.  He funded the building of the new ground (even though it was only leased and so could have been taken back by the ground landlord at the end of the lease).  He gave the Manor Ground to a newly formed Plumstead club, to keep football alive in the area.  And in 1925 he bought in Herbert Chapman to manage the club.

That was the measure of the man.  That is the standard Stan Kronke and his board have to live up to.

Maybe Stan Kronke has a good reason for not issuing new shares to FanShare.  Maybe there are good reasons to wind it up.  But there are no good reasons for allowing those who invested in the scheme not to get all their money back.

To be clear, we are not talking about an investment that has lost money.  We are not talking about buying a share in Arsenal for £15,000 and finding it loses money and can only be sold  for £13,000.  We are talking about a scheme Arsenal promoted and we, the fans, bought into in good faith.

It is unacceptable if FanShare members do not get every penny they have invested back.  If that is what happens it will be a dark stain on the club’s reputation for caring about its fans, for a long time to come.

Arsenal is a business, and it must run as a business.  I have always supported that fact, and never looked for the club to have a benefactor.  But shutting down FanShare in this way goes too far.

Stan Kronke – it is your reputation on the line here.

30 comments to Arsenal: this is not an acceptable way to behave.

  • insideright

    Not issuing new shares sounds like a rational business decision – but you have to ask the question what has happened to change the Kroenke view that he should no longer fund the scheme’s overheads which I thought he was doing.

  • Syrup

    £50 per member admin and legal fees. That’s £100k in fees to someone faceless. That’s not much Arsenal. Show some loyalty to those fans that showed they cared about the club

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    Tony,
    Why is fanshare associated with AST and not AISA?

  • Riaan

    I am a longtime follower and reader of your blog. Most of the time I share your sentiments entirely. This time however I believe your style is immature and emotional. First of all please show the owner of the club a little respect. Get his name right and show him the courtesy of referring to him as mr Kroenke.

    Secondly, please consider the way in which many members of fanshare has acted towards the club. For example the AST and Tim Payton in particular. Why should the club care one iota whether they loose money.

    Thirdly, and here the maturity comes in, when you invest in any share on the stock market you accept a measure of risk – knowingly. The price of Arsenal shares have risen considerably in recent times. When one buys shares at their peak the risk is so much bigger. You should have known that.

    The reason why the scheme has to be wound up is not clear from your article, you only say that Arsenal will not make more shares available, which in itself is not reason to liquidate the scheme. Sounds like a ponzi if you ask me.

    I suggest you look for blame somewhere else, and get over it quickly, the season is upon us.

  • Notoverthehill

    Tony, I have already pointed to the AST Revenue and Balance Sheet as at 31st October 2013, and the Fanshare demise.

    I did not point out the members who actually run the Arsenal Fanshare Scheme. Tim Payton is a member of that committee.

    The Football Governance. Written evidence Page 101.

    “However, due to the regulatory burden of offering share ownership, Arsenal Fanshare has been very expensive to establish and maintain. In the submission below we set out how this can be addressed and also cover how both the Football Authorities and the Government can do more Football Governance: Written evidence 103 to assist with the introduction of schemes that reflect the Fanshare objectives to increase
    supporter involvement in football clubs.”

    Why proceed with the scheme if it was so expensive to run?

    Why has Tim Payton, at every opportunity, run down the Arsenal Board of Directors, and Mr Wenger in particular?

    Why did the AST commission a report discussing Mr Wenger’s “failure” to win a trophy for a few years? No trace of this report on the AST site. Further no mention in their latest Annual Report.

    The AST management, bit the hand that subsidised the Arsenal Fanshare.

    Glyn Taylor, is the one to blame, Payton should have been banished years ago!

  • Rantetta

    Tony,

    This is fascinating. I saw a link at lunchtime which said the scheme was closing down. The link took me to an Arsenal.com page. It hadn’t occurred to me that Arsenal “ran” the scheme, (even after reading the piece on the dot com), but who else would run it?

    Having read this article I would agree that it’d be “correct” for people to get their full money back.,

    I’ve also now read NOTH’s post, above.

    Whenever I see “AST”, I feel uncomfortable. I’ve seen videos over the years where Tim Payton degenerates the club and management. I’ve found it all extremely pernicious. The Arsenal hating media latch onto and promote his every disparagement. And that’s just the stuff I’ve seen. I’d never take AST seriously, due to the vitriol they’ve distributed amongst Arsenal’s supporters, along with implied permissions to entirely screw up this club.

    I’ve often wondered whether AST are encouraged by the fellow with fewer shares, whose statements at moments not so good for the Arsenal, tend to smack of the wrecking ball variety. I’m sure not all AST members subscribe to the views of Payton, but they’re not refuting those publicly stated, which I accept may be too difficult.

    Could it be that Arsenal FC have recognised that divisiveness comes from the fanshare scheme? (I’m trying to be polite).
    Have the AST been further attempting to destroy any relationship between the club and the supporters?
    Are Arsenal FC punishing those they consider to be wreckers, not just now but over the last several years?
    With the scheme closed is it possible that in the future AFC will start a new fan share scheme which will operate in a way that somehow excludes “naysayers”?

    Or have I entirely got the wrong end of the stick?

    I’m standing by for the usual slating from the media. I know whose side they’re on – Anti Arsenal…

  • dan

    Not right from our great club.

  • nicky

    Purely on the subject of issuing new shares, wouldn’t that merely reduce share value overall?
    And as I’ve watched the financial dealings of Arsenal plc since the 30’s, I’m afraid “parsimonious” has been the constant watchword.
    The proposed treatment of Fanshare could prove to be a stain on the history of our great Club.

  • bjtgooner

    When any someone invests in shares they do so at their own risk. However, given the intentions of the Fanshare scheme when set up it would appear to be wrong for Arsenal not to ensure that fans do not lose on the venture.

    The antics of Tim Payton and whether or not AST has deliberately been used as a semi creditable base from which to under mine AW and/or the board is a separate issue and should be treated as such.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I must say that I have followed Tim Payton on twitter a few years ago.
    And when he posted 1000 tweets I think 1020 were anti-Arsenal, anti-Wenger, anti-Kroenke and anti-Gazidis.
    Arsenal having no more of this might be one reason for them to not feed they mouthpiece of many AAA fans. (I know, I know,…. )
    For once I should count myself lucky as I wanted to join it but couldn’t as it was only for people living inside the UK.

  • Vintage Gooner

    I am not an expert but I am a proud member of AST whose meetings I normally attend and I have subscribed since it’s inception to Fanshare because I strongly support the principle of fans participating in the ownership of the club they support.

    As an aside AST itself does not have a declared position except that they are committed and strong supporters of Arsenal FC. This however encompasses a much broader “church” than Untold who strongly oppose the criticism and negativity which some Arsenal supporters have expressed through their then increasing frustration with the manner in which the club was being run. Now most Arsenal supporter have far fewer concerns and we all hope for good times to be back for the club in this and future seasons.

    On Fanshare itself we have been told that over time and with the regular purchase of the few shares available (and the gift by the club of one “orphan” share at the outset) Fanshare has become the fourth largest shareholder in the Arsenal club. Fanshare may stop its saving for share purchase scheme but I would personally strongly oppose selling the shares it owns (presumably to Usmanov) when they should be kept as a small but important fan voice and the AGM which I have attended twice through Fanshare is a good example of utilizing what the shares offer.

    The saddest thing is that it has not been possible to persuade Stan Kroenke that investment direct in Arsenal by fans is good for both. By all means put a cap so that control of the club will not change but don’t treat the fortunate purchase the Arsenal Board facilitated you obtaining as a simple opportunity for crude asset expansion so that you are an even wealthier man.

    Finally although AST originally set up Fanshare and the boards of the two are mixed but not identical this doe not make the two other than separate identities. Further the views of Tim Payton who I believe is professionally peripherally involved with Football are often expressed as his personal opinions and not necessarily representative of AST. And again in my own view I do not see why termination of the professional services received should not be a prior charge before returning the funds accumulated when they can not be put to purchase of Arsenal shares as intended. I don’t see why Arsenal should foot these and I am grateful to Arsenal that they have in newsletter updates treated all us Fanshare members as though we were full shareholders rather than jointly having tiny parts of one share. Again Ivan Gazidis treating Arsenal fans in the Arsenal Way!

  • Arsenal1Again

    Allow me to look at my previous comment for anything auto-moderating filters might pick up on. It just disappears when I click post. I apologise for any repetition of posts. I will try once more after checking through the wording disliked by some filters.

  • Mandy Dodd

    I hope this does not mark,Stan revealing himself as something we don’t want him to be

  • The don dadda

    Us fans have been getting shafted by the bigwigs at Arsenal for years. Untold has staunchly always defended them, until now. It’s sad but amusing.

  • oldgroover

    Walter
    I think you’re probably right with your supposition that Arsenal are attempting to dump the detestable Peyton and his supporters.

  • andy bishop

    Good interesting article. I was tempted once to buying in but bought utility shares instead. Faith is the key word here and the agendas whatever they are need to be handled carefully

  • Arsenal1 again, I don’t believe the moderation issues are Untold – it is Word Press. Word Press really does have problems when it comes to handling a lot of hits at once – and unless we change software (which I really dont want to do ) we have to put up with it.

    IF you can’t send a message, try changing your profile name and if possible email address. Failing all that send from another IP address.

  • gonergerry

    When will you guys realise that Stan, like every other investor is in it for the money?

    This isn’t a democracy. Yank investors like Stan are football Aliens.
    They understand just 2 words investment and profit.

    Investors by definition aren’t interested in fair- they are interested in how much they can screw out of mugs who love football.

    The AST is tolerated by Stan-just. Fanshare is tolerated marginally more. Stan regards Arsenal as a cash cow -how do you think he became a billionaire? By supporting inclusive schemes like fanshare?

  • Riaan

    Rantetta asks an interesting question relating to a possible link between a minority shareholder and AST or at least Tim Payton. This is a question which I posed to Payton which resulted in threats of legal action. Perhaps Arsenal has more evidence than we do.

    Tony, I really believe you owe Mr Kroenke an apology for your rant.

  • blacksheep63

    Riaan (or Mr or Mrs, Ms or master if you prefer) Tony did not insult Mr Kroneke and he did not ‘rant’. He expressed his understandable frustration at the way this operation has been handled by Arsenal. I think it is perfectly reasonable for him to do so given that it is his money we are talking about. MISTER Kroenke rarely if ever comments on Arsenal matters despite being the man in control of the majority of share (and thus the largest beneficiary). If the scheme is not working so be it, but for small investors (like Tony, or Mr Attwood to you) to be out of pocket when a man as rich as Croesus is not seems wrong to simple folk like myself.

    On a wider note, the collapse of an attempt for ordinary football fans to own a part of the club they love and support would seem to be an occasion for widespread disappointment.

  • Arsenal1Again

    I tried all your suggestions Tony about five minutes ago and no luck. Even messages of this size don’t get through now or so it seemed at lunchtime. Never mind.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Arsenal1Again,

    try one more time again if you can now

    I think it should work now

  • Gooner S

    @Tony
    I saw of this in Twitter over the weekend. I wondered what it was about. Thanks for the post.

    As an aside….Tim Payton is why I have never joined the AST. I really dont like how he ‘represents Arsenal fans’ or speaks on ‘our behalf’.

  • Amos

    It should perhaps be acknowledged that Arsenal funded the costs of running the scheme (some £75k per year) not only for the agreed period of 3 years when the scheme was set up but also voluntarily extended this for another year. The reason Fanshare is folding is because they don’t want to or are unable to fund these administration costs. It should also be acknowledged that Kroenke is not really responsible for the limited number of shares available as the majority of the shares he bought were from other major shareholders. The limited availability now is because Usmanov has been hoovering up every available share – AFTER Kroenke took control.

  • finsbury

    It is sad.

    For many the dream died when the AST was hijacked or unveiled it’s true colours, colours that demanded repetively and against all common sense that the club expose itself to a Vulture Oligarch. Why would anyone who has their clubs best interest at heart want to do that? Especially someone who says they work in football and therefore aware of teh tyoes of shennanigans elsewhere. How is this a credible posture? It never has been. Yet these people get airtime on certain, predictable media ahead of the majority of the fans who have never agreed with them.

    Of course we need a check on the owner who was only given the club at Fizman’s deathbed, under some conditions I would imagine. Interesting how the Groaners never ever refer to teh melodramtic handover story and the impact it had on the club, the inertia as the process unfolded etc. Never a mention! Very strange. Almost as if they have, certain, you know, interests.

    Very sad.

    This kind of satire is overdue, but better late then never!
    https://twitter.com/AsTallAsHerEyes/status/491334394335199232/photo/1

  • finsbury

    https://twitter.com/JimmyMcNulty91/status/491328736143622144/photo/1

    With such widespread ridicule it looks like that spot on the board is some way off for those who were so desperate over these past years. Pulling the plug on Fanshare is the price we pay for their vanity and arrogance, not to mention stupidity.

  • finsbury

    Perhaps if more influential Arsenal fans elsewhere had the footballs to call out these disingenius bumblers and had them repaced with credible individuals who do not consistently prove that the know nothing of football and are against the club then this unfortunate situation could have been avoided.

    As it was the consistent WOB propaganda sucked them in, and now they are too embarrassed to admit how wrong they got it: new deals (TV and kit) in 2013-14 = more ca$h! Signing players like Ozil and Sanchez is a little clue, just like when the club had some Wonga in the past and signed, you know, Pires, Overmars…etc…
    doh!

  • ArsenaI1Again

    No luck here Walter, I just tried again. Sorry for the late reply. I have just seen your message.

    New name, new email has just been used and with a different IP address too.

    It could be the size of the message (the one I tried posting on July 18th 2014).

    If this shorter message goes through it could be a clue.

  • WalterBroeckx

    please one more time after this attempt, Arsenal1Again….

  • ArsenaI1Again

    It is ok Walter. I will stop trying now. I feel I am being a nuisance. Sorry.