By Tony Attwood
The Arsenal Supporters Trust (of which I am not a member but was associated with – if that is the right term – when the Fanshare scheme was running) does a survey each year, and this year on reading its results through I find I have have a few doubts about its veracity.
My concern is that they tend to ask questions that depend on a certain amount of knowledge which the reader might not have. They are also asking for opinion without evidence, so as an opinion survey it is interesting, even though it may be an uninformed opinion survey.
For example there is one question that says,
Do you think that there needs to be more professional football experience either added to the Arsenal Board or made available in an advisory role to them?
How does one answer that? One could say, “looking at the board, none of them has been a manager or a player, so yes they need more.” That’s the first off view, and since this is an online questionnaire, the view that most people will go for. Tick the box move on. But then one might argue, we have a club management that has a huge amount of professional football experience, so what is the point of having another lot at director level?
Or one might say, “that is interesting, how has it worked with other clubs when they have moved some senior management staff into the board room? (In fact a quick review of the situations suggests it causes discord as often as it improves things.
One might also ask, what does the board do? From the point of view of the aaa I suspect what they want it to do is to stop Mr Wenger doing what he does, and get him to do something else. But you don’t need a person with professional football experience to do that. 86% agreed with the proposition – which of course was a foregone conclusion. They were bound to.
But I wonder how many of those answering actually had a clear idea of what a Board does. I think I do, because I am a director of four companies (although two of them are very small). Each has a different sort of Board makeup and that leads to all sorts of issues, and that’s always the key issue.
Then there was the question “Are you satisfied with the performance of Ivan Gazidis?” Now we have the point, “how would anyone know?” What do you know of the work of Mr Gazidis apart from what you might hear in the press, and the occasional meetings of supporters he attends? How does any of us know how he liaises with the media, works with Mr Wenger, arranges the affairs of the club etc? There was no “don’t know” box, and the largest number of voters chose the “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” which could mean “I don’t know” or could mean “he does some good and then some bad. 37% were quite or very satisfied, 26% quite or very dissatisfied.
There was then another question in which we were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much we believed the owner and board were doing all they can to help Arsenal win the league.
This is curious because “all they can” assumes a knowledge of the individuals’ mental ability and effort combined. Again how on earth are we to evaluate that? Sir Hardly Anyone, if on the board, might flap around a lot and gather irrelevant facts. One could argue (if one didn’t want a fist in the face) that is all he can do, given his refined upbringing on one of the great rural estates of the country so he does all he can. I don’t think that is what the question meant though.
Then there are the questions which have lying behind them all sorts of other issues…
For example there is the question, “The AST campaigned this year for more of the new TV money to be spent on reducing ticket prices. The club subsequently announced that they would free home ticket prices for three years. Do you think this is enough?”
26% said yes, 70% said no, 4% said don’t know.
Now the problem here is one that relates to what happens to the money. For example if the additional money is used to buy more players that the manager wants, then many might think this is a good idea. If the money goes on ever escalating player transfers and salaries however, because there is no salary cap and no control on transfer levels, this perhaps is not a good idea. We want our players to be paid well, and we want them not to leave Arsenal for Chelsea or Man City – clubs with massively more wealth than we have. So it might have been better to ask, “would you be happy to pay £20 less a game, even if it meant Arsenal was more restricted in the transfer market?”
As for “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you that ticket prices at the Emirates stadium provide good value for money, again how does one value that? Would the value for money have increased if we had won the league rather than come second? Or maybe the value would rise if one didn’t sit in front of a young gentleman who shouts out instructions to players in one word commands through the match.
It is a question which then raises the issue of how we judge value for money in a club. I imagine it must include
- The facilities for watching the game
- The facilities related to the game (entering the ground, refreshments etc)
- The performance of the team
- The performance of the referee and the opposition.
- The result
So does that mean that we only get value for money if Arsenal win the League rather than come second?
On the question of Mr Wenger being the right man for the job, no alternatives were put forward, so this is a judgement in isolation. 49% agreed he was, strongly or somewhat, 38% disagreed strongly or somewhat.
Which tells us… not much. It would be good to know who those who disagreed wanted to have as manager. But then we also have the fact that this is a poll of members of AST, a body that has long expressed a certain point of view. Ask another organisation and you’d get a different answer.
There was also a question about how strong a sense of belonging with Arsenal people felt now compared with five years ago. 44% said they felt they had a weaker sense of belonging. And I would really love to know how that was measured. If I think back five years I find it hard to judge my relationship with the club then – but if it was more or less, what made it more or less?
The last question that troubled me was one that asked “In comparison with other Premier League Clubs do you think Arsenal communicate openly and honestly with their supporters?”
Now that is tough. How do Tottenham communicate with their supporters? I don’t really know. Occasionally I have a peek at their web site, but really I still don’t know. Most club web sites are the bland leading the bland. And Man U? Man C? Chelsea? How on earth do people know how to answer that question? At least 31% said they “don’t know” and that seems to me the right answer. 16% said Arsenal were better 20% said worse. I’d love to know how those two groups came to their decision.
Thus I emerged not much wiser. Perhaps next year the questions might be changed a little – although I am not sure they will. But as I said at the start, I’m not a member.
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And on the Arsenal History site…
- Arsenal in the 1930s – the full story of 1930/1, Arsenal’s first league championship, has been told in a series of 12 episodes. Probably the most detailed analysis ever published.
- The First League Season, including a review of each player who played in that season
- Arsenal in the 1970s – the complete review of every game and every transfer
- Arsenal in the summer – the transfers, the friendlies, year by year
- Arsenal anniversaries – nearly 5000 entries
The full index to all the series is on Arsenal History Society Web Site