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August 2021

Football Club Owners: distanced, lunatic, weird, profiteers…

By Tony Attwood

The united versions of Arsenal supporters associations have voiced their disapproval at the club’s owner for not meeting with them, as he said he would when he took over the club.

And I have a certain sympathy with that.  People in positions of power should not make promises they don’t intend to keep.  If they make promises they find they can’t keep for reasons outside their control, they should apologise and offer an explanation and an alternative BEFORE being called to account.  Mr Kronke has not.

But, I temper my judgement somewhat because by and large I think Mr Kronke has done good.  He made a good speech when I saw him at the AGM, and he has not behaved as many owners behave.   He hasn’t gone round sacking managers in the style of Chelsea and Man City, nor has he gone totally over the edge as the owner of Cardiff City has done.

Now that may seem like damning by highlighting what he has not done, but let’s consider how owners and top dogs can behave.

We may snigger a bit at Cardiff  but the horrific nature of the way that the owner of Cardiff has treated loyal fans is truly awful.

I wrote a piece when the new owner of the bluebirds came in asking what we might think if Arsenal suddenly played in blue and white.  It may seem ludicrous but the owner of Cardiff changed their colours overnight from blue and white to red and white.  Just like that.

And ok, the supporters seemed to forgive him because (it seemed, although we need a second look) he ploughed money into the club and got them into the Premier League.  Besides the local fans probably thought that anyone would be all right when compared with some of the people they have had around like Peter Ridsdale (now at Preston, previously most famously at Leeds, but also guilty of the most shocking behaviour at Cardiff).

But changing colours isn’t the half of it.  Not when Vincent Tan, the Cardiff owner, is at home.  He has suspended the head of recruitment Iain Moody, without any public explanation, and has brought in Alisher Apsalyamov, reputed to be a mate of Tan’s son, who did work experience at the club in the summer (apparently painting the walls for a while).   He is now executive assistant to the recently appointed chief executive, Simon Lim.

It would be unbelievable if it were not for the story of Blackburn Rovers that we have covered here before, a club in such chaos that at times it managed to provide the court where cases concerning the club were regularly held with evidence that actually supported those it was fighting.  It is indeed a miracle that the club has survived – although with tiny crowds in a lower league.

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But back to Cardiff.  Tan owns 51% of Cardiff, at a time when, he says, he did not know the rules of football.   It was one of a number of Championship clubs purchased by those seeking to buy cheap, put in some money (maybe) and sell on the back of the TV income in the premier league.

The point is that Tan has not GIVEN Cardiff money, he has loaned Cardiff money.  With interest.  The club loses money – about £10m to £15m a year, so Tan loaned money to cover this and then some more to buy the players who took them up.  And the club pays him interest.  At 7%.

So Cardiff went up, and then spent again on players in order to try and stay up.  It is suggested that then a row broke out because the budget was not adhered to, so changes had to be made – and these might in the coming days include the removal of Malky Mackay who actually engineered the arrival of Cardiff in the top league.  Tan can do that with a click of the fingers.   He owns the club, remember.  He believes in money, not people.

Mackay is annoyed about the removal of Iain Moody who was suspended and then sacked without reason being given to Mackay and the fact that no public statements are made about it.  It looks more and more like Cardiff City is a Tan plaything – a trivial bit of money making in which spats can happen.  “I built this club, I can bring it down” seems to be the style.

All this unsettles fans and players, and leads to an atmosphere similar to that which the Wenger Out groups sought to instil at Arsenal during the spring and summer of 2013.  Indeed Tan could probably learn a trick of two about how to bring a club low from the tactics of the anti-Wengerians, even though they lost in the end.

But whereas Arsenal had a way out with the three year pursuit of Ozil, Cardiff’s future is less secure.

And that is what can happen when owners are removed.  Yes you can get a good guy in and the club can become something of a success.  But equally you can bring in people who see the club as nothing save a source of money for them.   Remember, if you dare, the sale of Liverpool to the Americans.  Americans who promised that the work would start on a new stadium within weeks of their takeover and who then went on to generate a leveraged buyout.

Football, because of the unique passions it brings, is a unique business.  And that means it incorporates unique dangers.  The stability that Arsenal has, is worth far more than those who oppose Wenger, Gazidis and Kronke ever realise.

Footnote: I’m on jury service at the moment, so it is possible that comments held in moderation may not be cleared as fast as usual.  I keep asking the judge to halt the trial so I can see to Untold, but he seems not to understand.

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26 comments to Football Club Owners: distanced, lunatic, weird, profiteers…

  • jonny gunner

    Morning Tony,
    Don’t worry about anything in the outside world……just send’im down anyway…then get away early for lunch!

  • The font

    I didn’t do it honest guv

  • Amos

    Has Kroenke made a promise he hasn’t kept? Did he promise to meet with them after he took control of the club while in the process of taking over the club? He had certainly met with representatives of one of the supporters groups in 2008 and the offer document supporters groups refer to did nothing more than acknowledge that while promising to continue to ‘engage’ with them in the future. This disapproval of Kroenke’s welcome trait of letting the people he employs take responsibility has more to do with some individual supporters wanting their egos stroked.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Its all formal and business as usual…… from

    In today’s world of MBA’s, the old fashioned Love-Letter is being replaced by such ‘Corporate’ Love-Letters, go ahead and read on.

    Dearest Ms. _____,

    I am very happy to inform you that I have fallen in love with you. Since the 25th of December 2008. With reference to the meeting held between us on the 24 th of December 2008 at 1500 hrs, I would like to present myself as a prospective lover.

    Our love affair would be on probation for a period of three months and depending on compatibility, would be made permanent. Of course, upon completion of probation, there will be continuous on the job training and performance appraisal schemes leading up to from lover to spouse. The expenses incurred for coffee and entertainment would initially be shared equally between us. Later, based on your performance, I might take up a larger share of the expenses.

    However I am broadminded enough, to be taken care of all your expense account. I request you to kindly respond within 30 days of receiving this letter, failing which, this offer would be canceled without any further notice and I shall be considering someone else. I would be happy, if you could forward this letter to your sister, if you do not wish to take up this offer.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

  • nicky

    I think you should come straight out with it and ask* his Lordship which team he supports.
    Judges are supposed to be impartial but I’m beginning to worry about this one.
    *I was going to put “demand” but didn’t want to see you done for contempt.

  • insideright

    When he took over the Club Kroenke made a statement, published on the Club website, saying that (after two years of sitting on the board) he liked the way the Club was run, wanted that to continue and had invited all existing Dirctors to stay in place and carry on the good work. Currently there exists (again on the Club website) a statement of how the Club sees itself, it’s purpose and the way it believes things should be done.
    What more do people expect? Or are we back into the world of a few, attention seeking, individuals wishing to use their fan organisations as a platform for their own aspirations? Methinks, if I may mix my metaphors, that they might be scraping the barrel looking for nits to pick.

  • Mick

    Without wishing to appear ignorant, but what does MBA stand for? I get confused with this modern trend of Initialising things. According to the Urban Dictionary their are 51 possibilities for MBA ranging from Main Battle Area, through Massive Bank Account and Mediocre Bastard Alert, and finishing with The Mindlessness of Business Administration. My gut feeling is for Mutually Beneficial Arrangement rather than Mississauga Baseball Association, could you confirm if this is correct.

  • Mandy Dodd

    I have been wary of Kronke in the past, but, at the risk of egg on my face, the more time goes on, the more I am assured by him. I thought he may have been a fast buck merchant after a quick sell, an asset stripper who would raid for huge dividends. The fact is, at least so far he shows no sign of these traits. Seems he is just a hands off typical American sports club owner, and if he is, good luck to him. Maybe he is not up for these meetings, maybe he has seen the tactics of the AAA, maybe he knows he cannot win with some, knows some present will have an agenda to discredit him, and big up his rival. But what he does do, as other blogs have mentioned is allow good access to his CEO, and other board members, in a way few other top clubs do, again fair play to the club.
    That painter who has got the senior job at Cardiff City – scary name, reminds me too much of someone else

  • ARSENAL 13

    Dividends…..well As an ARSENAL fan I hate to think that Kroenke would start taking dividends. But as a business mas I think whats wrong if he does??

    I dont care if he takes dividends, provided he does not take an exorbitant amount and if ever ARSENALs accounts turn red, then invest the money back into ARSENAL.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Mick – Mega Bullshit Artists ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sounds just about right …..

    A cowboy walks into a cafe with a shotgun in one hand and a bucket of buffalo manure in the other.
    He says to the waiter, “Bring me some coffee.”
    The waiter says, “Sure, coming right up.”
    He gets the cowboy a big mug of coffee, and the cowboy drinks it down in one gulp, picks up the bucket of manure, throws it into the air, blasts it with the shotgun, then just walks out.
    The next morning the cowboy returns, with a bucket of manure and a shotgun again. He walks up to the counter and asks for coffee.
    The waiter says, “Whoa, Dude! We’re still cleaning up your mess from yesterday. What the heck was all that about, anyway?”
    The cowboy answers: ”I am getting ready to go for my MBA, so after that I could qualify for an executive position: Come in, drink coffee, shoot shit, leave mess for others to clean up, disappear for rest of day.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Then there is this often repeated classic –

    Management Parable:
    A turkey was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”
    “Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?” replied the bull. They’re packed with nutrients.”
    The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the first branch of the tree.
    The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.
    Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Soon he was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot the turkey out of the tree.

    Management Lesson:
    Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

  • Mick

    What about Media Bullshit Expert, very appropriate and there are plenty who would fit the bill.

  • Mick

    Sorry meant Mega Bullshit Artist.

  • I am so glad that Kroenke isn’t meeting meeting with ANYONE of the groups. Why should he? I agree that he should keep his promise or at least explain why he couldn’t but when I think of that Cardiff guy and the fact that Kroenke is at least not asking us to wear Chelsea colours (whoa, I shiver at that thought), I am very grateful for his measured and hands-off approach.

    Like Mandy, I was quite wary of the American but I now respect and appreciate him. Especially after he came out as an AKB.

    Oh BTW, to all the AAAs, AKBs rule. Literally!

  • Sammy The Snake

    Silent Stan meeting any sub-group will only mean every other sub-group will demand the same, so it’s best avoided.

    My only problem with him is his lack of success with his other sports franchises. I hope he turns it around with Arsenal. Otherwise, he seems like a professional and experienced sports club owner.

  • nicky

    Stop asking me about MBA. It was Brickfields who raised the letters.

  • Mick

    Sorry Nicky, I’m getting old and confused.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Think maybe the worst thing stan does is use us for collateral for other purchases or some would say not too far up there in terms of mis deeds unless he put us at risk and that really would be a bit stupid

  • nicky

    I’m afraid we are stuck, for the time being, with Mr Kroenke.
    He’s a shrewd businessman who knows nothing about football.
    This is the trouble with the game today. It’s become big business. The financial boys wield the clout.
    When the time is ripe, they will depart the club with a big profit from the sale of their shares….without a backwards glance. And the next financier will take over.

  • Pat

    You put it in a nutshell, Nicky.

  • elkieno

    I wish I was rich, I would buy Arsenal and keep it from getting dirty and any filthy fingers touching her!
    Then I would start a bank up and give loans out to poor people that can’t afford the massive interest rates a regular bank/financier charges. It wouldn’t be to make money but to help people make a good life. That’s my dream anyway, one day it will happen.
    Until then we have to hope stan just let’s us evolve.

  • Unbelievable belief

    If the accused has a twitch, he’s guilty.
    Don’t let him blame the dog this time!

  • Unbelievable belief

    Just be glad Stan spends no money on his other teams.
    He’s not taking money out of Arsenal to prop them up.

  • Mandy Dodd

    If you are right Nicky just hope he is very careful who he sell us to but in fairness to stan we are told he has never sold any part of his sports clubs and is a serious long term investor unless anyone knows different

  • Yes it should be very sad for fans to take money from anywhere they want and then moan about it saying the owner is x and he is doing y and z that is affecting “loyal” supporters.

    All that should’ve been taken in to count when accepting the said money or they should be like arsenal and hire an intelligent man who knows the purse strings are tied and manage within that while achieving “acceptable” levels of progression.