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Why you should join Arsenal Supporters Trust today

By Greg Adams

At a time when most of the major Premier League clubs have been bought by Russian, American and Arab investors and mortgaged to within an inch of their survival we should be grateful that, for the time being, ownership of Arsenal remains largely in the hands of those that love the club and are interested primarily in the football side of the business rather than the value of their investment. Whilst we have a number of major shareholders, notably Messrs Kroenke and Usmanov, none have a majority stake. I hope it stays that way.

“Hoping”, however, only gets us so far. “Doing”, I find, is far more productive. With this in mind, when I received an email from The Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) about my republication of Arsenal books (www.gcrbooks.co.uk) I started thinking. The first thing I decided to do was to join the AST. At a cost of only £2 per month it’s less than the price of a pint or around half a packet of cigarettes, if you prefer.

Today my membership card arrived in the post, together with a very nice AST badge, but I was surprised to see that membership has yet to reach 900. I had anticipated a far higher number.

Stated simply, the goal of the AST is to “…widen and deepen supporter ownership, representation and influence at Arsenal.” What they do is collect all those £2 subscriptions, stick the money under the bed and when there’s enough they run out and buy an Arsenal share or two. Now, as an ex-banker my maths is likely to be a bit dodgy but here’s some simple arithmetic:

900 individuals pay x £24pa = £21,600.

This is sufficient to purchase around 3 Arsenal shares a year at the current price of around £8,500. At this rate it would take the AST more than 10,000 years to acquire 51% of the clubs 62,219 shares…..a little too long in my opinion. With around 180,000 members Arsenal FC has, I believe, the largest fan-base of any club in the world (based on membership).

If only half of the 180,000 cut back one pint or beer or 10 fags a week (they’d be alot healthier for starters) they would enable the AST to take control of Arsenal by 2133! OK, so we won’t live to see the day but hopefully you get my point. I understand that the AST is also looking at a possible Arsenal sharesave scheme which could also accelerate fan ownership of the club.

Anyway, the bottom line is that it’s surely better for Arsenal fans to own the club rather than a billionaire who’s just looking for a new plaything. So, don’t go down the pub tonight, go to the AST website and join the today!

http://www.arsenaltrust.org/

15 comments to Why you should join Arsenal Supporters Trust today

  • IndianGooner

    Is the membership restricted to UK citizens?

  • KG

    ^^ i was about to ask the same question @indianGooner
    the AST website will answer that question — time to head over there.

  • I’m a UK citizen resident in the UK, so the question of residency and citizenship hasn’t arisen for me, but the Trust’s web site says

    We welcome all Arsenal Supporters as members.

    So that would seem to be the answer – and indeed I can’t see any reason why one should not welcome Arsenal supporters on a world wide basis. The arguments we have heard on this and other sites about Mr Usmanov do not relate to his nationality but rather to the question of whether he might seek to gain full control of Arsenal, and then use the club for his own ends – for example as a profit centre which pays him dividends. (I would stress I have no knowledge of Mr Usmanov’s intention, and of course if he would like to write an article for Untold Arsenal to clarify his position, we’ll run it).

    My own personal arguments against the Glazers and the guys who own Liverpool are not based on their nationality, but on what they have done to the clubs.

    So, as far as I can see, no reason why any Arsenal supporter anywhere can’t join. I’d be concerned if it were otherwise.

    Tony

  • I believe anyone can join the AST, however, you may need a UK bank account to pay your £2 monthly subscription. Alternatively, there’s a one-time payment option for lifetime membership that costs, I believe, £250.

  • Just noticed that they have an online payment option using Google Accounts. It costs slightly more (£30 pa v £24) but this would allow supporters overseas to pay by credit card.
    Thus, it would appear that all are welcome without obstacle (unless you have no credit card or UK bank account).

  • steww

    Thanks for this. I shall join. Another excellent article on an excellent site.

  • Faron

    a Couple of Questions.
    Why, how would arsenal benifit the AST running the club? isnt there a saying “A camel is a horse designed by commitee or to many cooks”.

    Also What about Stan? has he not got the majority of the shares now? would he consider a take over?

    ok four questions then lol

  • IndianGooner

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I’ve an UK bank account(I was in UK couple of years back for work) and I’m planning to take the Lifetime membership. The only mode of payment is cheque for that membership but currently I’m in South Africa on work and my cheque book is in India. I wont be returning back to India for another 3-4months.

    I’ve mailed AST asking whether I can make payment for lifetime membership through online banking. Waiting for their reply..

  • Terence McGovern

    I gotta say, I am unsure about the AST. In theory its a nice idea but say they were to be givn control of the club in the morning, what would stop them from going the path of Real Madrid? Who would be in charge. How do we know that they would do any better?

    I have seen many posts on different site from members of the AST(they usually like to proclaim it) and some of their views and their ideas tend toward kneejerk reactionism.

    We may be unsure of some of the current board for many different reasons but they are very schrewd business heads each and every one.
    I shudder to think from where the business savvy would come within the ranks of the AST to manage the technical and commercial direction of an institution that most likely will have turned over a qtr. of a billion sterling this year. It would be a bit like turning over your retirement investment portfolio to some well intentioned people that you met down the pub.

    They might have the best will in the world but you need the expertise. I also wonder if any of the heckling of Arsene wenger at the recent shareholder’s meeting came from that sector.
    Food for thought.

  • AST member

    Just to answer a couple of points people have raised about the AST. Firstly, the AST is not trying to take over Arsenal – and as anyone can see a group of ‘ordinary people’ trying to take over a business worth around half a billion pounds is never going to succeed. The AST is trying to ensure that Arsenal does not have a majority owner or a sole owner who calls all the shots. Look at the way other Premier League clubs have gone: Man U mortgaged by the Glazers to fund their own purchase and profit taking, to the extent that they are the world’s most profitable club but can’t even pay the interest on their debts; Chelsea £700m in debt to a man who could walk away at any moment; Liverpool desperate to refinance loans taken out by the owners to buy the club; Man City the plaything of Arab Sheikhs with no real interest in football; West Ham with bankrupt owners; Newcastle with an owner who has pumped in hundreds of millions, has failed and can’t sell for less than he paid. The list goes on. At Arsenal there is no one putting their own omney in, but no one taking it out either. There is a debt because a new stadium was built, but it’s a manageable debt.

    Arsenal is a sustainable business because no single shareholder has a majority, and as a result everyone who has any shares has some say. That’s what the AST want to preserve. The biggest shareholder at present is Stan Kroenke with 28.3%.

    Secondly, the AST had nothing to do with ‘heckling’ Arsene Wenger – look at the AST website for info.

    Thirdly, AST subs are not solely to buy shares, they are to run the AST, send out mailings to members, etc. It all costs money. A sharesave scheme is to encourage supporters to join in as owners of their club in a small way, and to send the message to the Board that it’s OUR club. It has the added benefit of building up the base of shares that’s not in the hands of one or two people, and thus making a hostile takeover less likely as time goes on.

    Fourthly, where is the knee jerk reaction from the AST? Please point me towards it, because I’ve never seen it. The AST stands for exactly the opposite.

    Fifthy, yes any Arsenal supporter anywhere in the world can join. There are already members from many countries.

  • Pete the First

    In theory the AST is a great idea. I think the apathy of the Arsenal fans towards the AST is due to the lack of knowledge of who is running the organisation. Although the intentions are great, from the outside it looks like a group of number crunchers running an organisation. Maybe a bit more personality needs to be injected into the AST?

    In addition to the AST there are numerous other organisations who would preobably claim to be the rightful custodians of the Arsenal supporters…AISA, Arsenal Supporters Club, etc

    I think what is needed is one large Trust/Supporters club rolled into one which can claim to truly represent all Arsenal supporters. It might then be able to punch a little harder.

  • Terence McGovern

    You know I think that I may have gotten under somebody’s skin there just a tad.
    However. Some things in life are universal. Ok so the AST doesn’t want control? So t wants say…10% ownership. This is fine except it still wont give a seat on the board which I will bet the admin of the AST lay awake at night wistfully thinking of. It also doesn’t prevent the possibility of a takeover. So that leaves acquiring more shares etc and at what point do they stop?

    Now I know that the AST is not ever going to acquire control because financially they are 50 divisions out of their league but the point that I am trying to make is that at the end of the day the best that they can achieve is to make a certain sector of the supporters feel alittle better which is both laudable and admirable.
    Where I see the problem though is that I think that it is inevitable that the AST will align themselves with one of the large shareholders(God help us if it is Usmanov) in return for concessions/influence and suddenly it is no longer about maintaining joint ownership because a side has been picked and it is all about lobbying power in exchange for voting support.

    Now I have no wish to offend the AST member(see what I mean about them declaring themselves) but eventually it wont be a supporters group acting in unison but rather 1 guy at the top in the mould of Gordon Taylor who will have no option but to play the political game in direct conflict to the very ideas behind forming the AST in the first place.

    Lastly and I really need you to take this on board. I..we.. all of us love and support the club as best we can through thick and thin. We celebrate the successes in ecstacy and feel the desolation of failure in ways non-football fans will never understand. Our general level of happiness is in many ways tied to Arsenal but lets get one thing straight. It is NOT our club.We do not own it It is Stan Kroenke’s club. It is Danny Fiszman’s club and God help us, it is Alisher Usmanov’s club.
    The rest of us whether we own a few shares or not are simply customers with a ton of customer goodwill. The people who DO own it may have great concern with our happiness but that doesn’t make what is theirs, ours.
    Anybody who believes otherwise is delusional.

    Having some shares in a company doesn’t make you an owner. If it did I would own Samsung.

  • Pete the First

    Terence I think you make a good point old bean!

  • Faron

    yeah. Terence, that was a good Summerise.

  • AST member

    Terence, nice of you to respond, even if you did ignore pretty much everything I said!

    Let me just repeat: the AST is all about trying to ensure that Arsenal remains a club that does not have a sole majority, or even worse 100%, owner. As soon as it has that, the owner will be able to take money out instead of putting it in.

    Man U: Glazers borrow money to buy the club, give the club the debt, pay themselves dividends, let the debt go up on the basis that they believe it will never be called in, and even if it is, what the hell, it’s not their money?
    Arsenal: plurality of ownership; some shareholders have made millions because the value of all football clubs has risen exponentially over the last 25 years, but no one has taken a penny out – dividends stopped being paid in the early 70s.
    Which model looks better to you?

    You don’t want Usmanov to take control. Well think about this: Usmanov is interested in what the AST say and do because the AST represent the 15% of shares not held by one of the big four shareholders. If he believes the weight of public opinion is against him and he can’t rely on that 15% to win a vote, he will be more cautious.

    In any group of hundreds of fans you will find people with different opinions, that is inevitable. But the purpose of the AST is not to get someone on the Arsenal Board, it’s to make sure the Arsenal Board do their job properly. It’s a fairly simple remit precisely so that members do have a common cause.

    As to your comments about owners, well you’re right up to a point: the more shares a person has the more of an owner they are. But at Arsenal, because there is plurality, ALL shareholders can turn up to the AGM and put questions to the Board about how they run things. ALL shareholders can go to a meeting with Arsene Wenger and ask him questions (and the fact that some people annoyed him with their rudeness and aggressive questioning doesn’t mean the event was a bad idea). Try that with the Glazers, or at Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, West Ham, Newcastle, Villa, etc etc. So in a very real sense all supporters DO own Arsenal, much more than nearly every other English club. The sad thing is we’re in danger of losing that because a lot of fans don’t seem to attach much importance to it. I think perhaps you really need to take that on board.