The Christmas gift for the fan with (almost) everything
By Tony Attwood
The AGM of Arsenal Holdings plc lasts an hour – several hundred people and a bunch of journalists turn up, there’s tea and biscuits before and after, and this year it was held in the Woolwich section of Club Level, which was nice for me (what with the book “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed history” coming into the final furlong as we get it ready for publication next year. (Interestingly the actual trading company is still Woolwich Arsenal Football and Athletic Club, but they don’t seem to have an AGM any more.)
Although Mr Wenger’s speech was indeed the real highlight of the affair, there was one moment that stole the show. Ivan Gazidis did his speech, which was a standard AGM intro about how things are going, with a particular statement about the 14 years of continual membership of the Champions League – a record only surpassed by Real Madrid and Manchester United. Some of the numbers were interesting. The HD programming on Arsenal Player reaches 110 million in 88 countries, and by the end of this season they expect 10 million followers on Facebook. He promised a few events for December, and also noted the slogans that have been put all the way around the ground. I noticed the one about Danskin as I walked around the stadium, and I think it is a shame from a historic point of view – so I guess I will just have to do a piece on the Uncovered column in the programme, saying that it wasn’t really Danskin who started the club.
Anyway, then he sat down, and as we had been promised, Stan Kronke stood up. Now I must add here that when the running order was announced there were gasps of amazement from the crowd at the mention that Stan was going to speak.
He wasn’t introduced – the chairman didn’t say, “And now Mr Kronke…” After Ivan Gazidis sat down Stan just got up and went to the microphone.
And stood there.
I swear that 95% of the audience didn’t get the joke, but it really had some of us in stitches – we really thought for about 20 seconds he was just going to stay silent and then sit down again. But he did eventually speak – no notes, no hesitation. As an intro he said, “Some people have asked me to make a speech. I don’t know why.” So he made a speech about how he has known Arsenal for a long time, and how it was the only club he could think of buying into, and how he was in for the long term.
And then came the questions. This year these were pre-planned nothing coming up from the floor. The questioner read the question and the chairman read the answer. Several times there was muttering from the floor that the chairman didn’t answer the questions, but in fact many of the questions were unanswerable in any other form. The questions were so broad as to be hopelessly vague, so they got a vague answer.
We got the picture straight from question 1 (and I have to admit I didn’t get a paper with the questions on, so I am not quoting either question or answer verbatim, but it was something like this):
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Question: Is it time to review the self-sustaining financial model in order to bring success on the pitch.
Answer: The self-sustaining model is the right way forwards, and the future is in our own hands.
The point about the self-sustaining financial model is that it is, as the questioner hinted, one of many. Another approach is to do a Chelsea/Man City. Another is to follow Man U’s marketing model (and there were hints several times that next year’s figures will show the first real boost to the marketing revenue). Another is to do a Leeds or a Portsmouth. So what does a review of the SS model mean? It means saying do we want to go into huge debt, and the chairman said no. Not much of a debate, but then not much of a question really.
There was one serious point in question 2 – the injection of money from a new equity offer. Here the answer was a straight no.
So it went on. Some of the questions would obviously never get an answer: such as did Tom Fox (in marketing) get a bonus last year? No chairman of a plc is going to answer a question about an individual’s salary at an AGM unless the articles of the company insist that this is revealed – and indeed as Andy Kelly of the Arsenal History Society pointed out to me afterwards, Arsenal chairmen since Norris have been saying, as they are entitled to say, “I don’t have to answer that”.
There was one question as to whether ticket prices would go down if we didn’t get into the Champions League next year – that wasn’t answered but you could see from the faces of the board it was thought to be a dumb question. We have high ticket prices to pay for players’ wages. If we pay less then players leave or don’t come in the first place. So if we were to drop out of the Champs League, and then reduce our income, what next? We get more players leaving and find it harder to get into the Champs League and the spiral of descent is built into the club. Who wants that?
Of course the questioner might have had in mind some thought about other forms of finance – but then that was not in his question, so we won’t ever know.
After that there was the inevitable request for the chairman to stand down, and hand over to David Dein. The chairman said he wouldn’t, and I was left wondering why such a question would be asked. Again it is a case of trying to wrap a highly complex issue into a single simple question. David Dein was against the Emirates and yet we have the Emirates. On such a major policy decision surely to bring back the major opponent of the scheme would be ludicrous. David Dein was (I believe, although obviously I have not seen the evidence) found to be negotiating behind the back of other board members against a policy decision already taken by the board. Again how could you bring him back? He clearly has a relationship with Mr Usmanov. How could that work when the board have turned down Mr Usmanov?
As for Fanshare members, we were thrown some hope. The question was asked about making more shares available for Fanshare members, and the answer was that the matter was being considered.
After that we were back to the criticisms of the board for not changing, for being out of touch and so on and so forth. For me at the time I thought that the answers from the chairman could have been written in a better way, but reading back through again I am not sure it would have made much difference to the show.
The biggest round of applause was of course for Mr Wenger before and after his speech. That’s the subject of the next report.
- THE SUPPORT: Let’s fight and support the fight
- Man U 1 Man C 6: The ref can get it right when he tries.
- MEDIA WATCH: From a one man team to a club in crisis!
- REF WATCH: Clarifying the way in which reviews are done.
- SUPPORTERS: Misplaced misery of the doom laden supporters
- REF REVIEW: Liverpool 1 Man U 1, Man U get the most wrong calls.
- MEDIA WATCH: A change in tone. But is it a positive one?
Untold Arsenal – the (fairly) complete index
- Untold History…Untold Media … Untold Ref Reviews …
- Untold Economics … Untold Corruption … Untold Wenger …
- Untold News … Untold Fifa … Untold Players … Untold Injuries
- Untold Statistics … Untold Tactics … Untold 2011/2 …
- Untold match reviews … Untold fans …
- Untold Stadia … Untold Literature …
- Untold humour …Arsenal History Society … “Making the Arsenal” …
- Untold Emirates … Arsenal Independent Supporters Association