It is time Arsenal stood up to fight state aid to football clubs in England

By Tony Attwood

You may recall that State Aid to football clubs is something that riles me.  Arsenal have never had any support from the British taxpayer, the owners of lots of oil fields, nor even the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE.  Indeed the last time we were given any money which (had it existed) would have exercised those considering FFP, was in 1910 when Henry Norris used some of the cash he made building houses in Fulham to bail out the bankrupt Woolwich Arsenal FC.  It cost him in the region of £10,000.  (About £4m by today’s standards).

No one thought of State Aid in the early 20th century, but now it seems to lurk here, there and everywhere.  We await the EC’s views on Real Madrid’s relationship with its city corporation – and similar cases elsewhere in Spain.  But meanwhile back home there is the issue of West Ham and the gift they have been given of the Olympic Stadium.

For whereas Arsenal spent £450m on their stadium, and Tottenham will spend much the same WHU have spent…. well, we can work it out.

I’m back on the subject because I have been exchanging a few thoughts with a member of the board of the Charlton Supporters Trust, (to whom I am very grateful for his time in bringing me up to speed with the details).  CST are leading the project to force a reworking of the rental agreement between the LLDC and West Ham so that ultimately West Ham might pay a lot more and the taxpayer a lot less.

I’m not that desperate to knock WHU, but as a tax payer I am rather miffed.  However now I am told there is a TV programme about to emerge on the subject and I do hope that you might watch it, and (assuming it reveals what I am told it reveals) start to lobby your MP (if you live in the UK that is).

Under EU rules State Aid is not on.  Not at all.  Not at all.  And so usually when a deal involving state funding comes around the people running the scheme toddle off to the EC and ask for clearance.  That didn’t happen with Manchester City’s stadium, but too much time has past now, and so nothing can be done.  But with WHU we are still very much in the time frame, and we’re asking the questions – and we know they never bothered to ask the EC if it were all right to do what they have done.

Now the problem is that in relation to this particular slice of European legislation, only organisations directly affected can make an objection, which in essence means a football club nearby.  But clubs are reluctant to come out and openly confront each other.  Henry Norris would have done it – and indeed did it in 1919 when he confronted Fulham over playing illegal players, and told the FA he was ready to pursue charges against Liverpool and Man U for match fixing unless they got off their arses.  But today’s club directors are not made of such strong stuff.

So clubs today won’t act – but the media is getting the message that this is a bit of a cosy little club all bailing each other out when bath is overflowing (or something like that) and so they are getting interested.  Hence the forthcoming TV programme with its rather interesting new revelations (which I have agreed not to reveal, but you will hear about soon enough).

Recently the Guardian reported that the total cost of the Stadium has risen to £701m, of which £272m is now the bill just for converting it for West Ham’s use.   Then the BBC’s Dan Roan chipped in with a useful summary of the sorry story so far, followed by coverage of Barry Hearn’s comments that the details of the deal should be made public.

Charlton supporters are still fighting to have the full contract released under Freedom of Information law. The Information Commissioner is still in discussion with the London Legacy Development Corporation about their complaint that the LLDC have failed to comply with the law.  The matter has reached the House of Commons.   They are acting a bit like the FA or Fifa would, but at least the word is out.

And from what I hear there is more to come out.

Meanwhile Leyton Orient have concentrated on monitoring and lobbying local politicians. Partly as a result of their efforts, questions were asked of the Mayor’s office at Question Time on 21 May. Although the questions are fairly bland, they revealed an important nugget of information. In an answer to Jenny Jones the Mayor listed the sources of funding for the Stadium transformation.

Newham Council’s contribution was given as £45m. That’s a £5m increase on all previously quoted figures. Of course we know that the costs keep increasing and everyone has to chip in to ensure West ham will be comfortable, but £5m is a lot of money for Newham borough, the poorest in the capital.   Did the electorate of Newham agree?

What next?

If the Information Commissioner insists on fuller disclosure of the rental contract, this will be scrutinized by the media. The importance of such coverage is that it shows politicians that the issue is not a narrow pre-occupation of fans of one club but concerns all of us who are opposed to state aid to football clubs.

I just get a little tingle that Arsenal FC are, unlike some other clubs, not sitting back and letting this all happen.  There are just too many clubs taking a non-commercial route through life while Arsenal lives within its means and succeeds in doing things like building the Emirates and becoming the most successful FA Cup team ever, all through a proper use of finance.

Indeed in the State Aid complaint Charlton supporters made I understand they used the cost of the Emirates and the way it was funded, as a benchmark.   Of course I am just a humble supporter but if I were on the board I would be bloody seething that West Ham are being given a State leg-up that will put them on an equal financial footing to Arsenal.

Indeed if I may respectfully say to Lord Harris of Peckham, surely sir, this is a much bigger issue to get involved with than how much we have in the bank and weather we are going to sign anyone this season.

I’m hoping that the forthcoming TV programme might push Arsenal into taking some action since they are directly affected by this.  All it needs is one club to stand up and say “No, state aid is not on.  They do it in Spain because Real Madrid can get away with anything, but not here.”


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And all the anniversaries each day are on the home page

Here’s one from today:

  • 28 July 2000: Overmars and Petit signed for Barcelona.  At €40.6 million Overmars was the most expensive Dutch player of all time but injuries inhibited his style and he rarely showed the quality that he had delivered at Arsenal.  Including wages he cost Barcelona around £4,000,000 a game.

13 Replies to “It is time Arsenal stood up to fight state aid to football clubs in England”

  1. Didn’t Spurs also receive some state aid in order to help them do demolition and land clearance work at WHL?

  2. I agree, Tony.

    FTR, I also don’t support bids to host Olympics, World Cups and other like thingamajigs. Too much taxpayer money that could support the great unwashed goes into the pockets of very rich and unaccountable people.

  3. Tailgunner, not Karen Brady I would be worried about!

    But in all seriousness, the gentleman on the right of the photo, who it must be said is a businessman, and a free man, went to court to unsuccessfully fight compulsory purchase orders of some of his land for the Olympic development. But I do not imagine he is the sort of guy one would chase if his loan payments were late, so maybe there was a humble price for West Ham getting this stadium!
    Arsenal and others should stand up against state aid. Hammers fans I know say they , unlike us are only renting the stadium, and will never own it, but not the greatest arguement in favour of state aid of that’s the best they can do.

  4. Can I interject?

    Being out in western Canada, I wouldn’t know this Brady if I tripped over her. Wikipedia seems to think she has an unusual spelling of Karren, and not Karen. Doesn’t matter.

    FIFA is corrupt, and it is still possible that the septic one isn’t corrupt; but he is in charge, there have been corruption issues in the past, he has tried to deal with them. And obviously FAILED.

    There is to be changes, and mister bladder screwed that up such that it may be a problem to find a committee to set a framework (just by accident).

    But we have various shots across the bow as far as who to replace the GREAT IDIOT. For instance, it has been found the Liberia has been exporting children to Thailand, and the president of that FA feels he could replace the septic one. For what fraction of the existance of Liberia, has there NOT been corruption at the highest levels? Platini has said he will run, but he doesn’t have clean hands. Zico has said he will run. Sol Campbell will run for anything.

    A few weeks ago, someone suggested the next FIFA president should be female. Sure, welcome to the list. While there are lots of males that are corrupt (or incompetent), it is not universal. And I would expect both genders to be about the same.

    Christine Sinclair of Canada has been a huge leader forever. I haven’t a clue if she has the background to be a president of FIFA.

    I don’t know Karren Brady from a hole in the ground. But going to wikipedia to learn something about her, she seems to have significant background to be a FIFA president.

    It’s possible, I haven’t read enough English news (which may or may not present truth). Is she a possibility?

    If the world leaves finding the next FIFA president to the same old process, we are likely to just see more of the same. The world’s FAs do not seem to have the desire to lead anything. Maybe the path to a new FIFA president is the blogs. Who is capable? Why do you think they can do a good job?

  5. I’m in agreement with Tony. There should be a lot more clubs making noise about the ‘freebies’ being offered to some clubs. Ownership should be regulated, even now there can be some control over nationality of ownership of UK based sporting clubs. If this is not regulated, Wimbledon will be foreign owned as will our major race courses.

  6. What surprises me is that the Arsenal went through a lot of self inflicted pain to get where they are. Surely they should be the 1st to jump up and down over state funding for rival clubs. Or they should openly support others that are fighting against. Or are they covertly helping? Or do they fear of being ridiculed (unlikely)and are waiting for some other big club to take a stand? Or is there something sinister going on?

  7. Congratulations , Walter . This ought to attract a few thousand uninitiated AKBs on to this site.

  8. Tony
    as per EU regulations is state aid to business organisations illegal or does it apply to football clubs too? Does the distinction that EU made between regular business and football clubs apply here?

  9. Gord
    You’re right, Karren ( two r’s ) Brady. She’s’ the glamorous vice chair of West Ham, who oversaw the Olympic Stadium deal on her own. She’s married to Canadian ex footballer Paul Peschisolido

  10. @ Gord -July 29, 2015 at 3:18 am – Am surprised that Karren Brady is not well known to you as she is married to Paul Peschisolido , probably the 3rd most famous Canadian to play in the EPL .
    That is after Owen Hargreaves and Tomasz Radzinski.
    I see here on – , that he was inducted into in 2013.
    I remember it was a mini scandal when they were first dating in their Birmingham days .

  11. The fact that Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United are both in London speaks volumes to me. Is this a new way of getting at Arsenal, who despite the apparent change of “public” opinion are still despised by certain ones?

    Now Chel$ is looking to get a new stadium too, i wonder if they will ask for a loan and supplements too? 🙂 If i was them i would do it just to be refused indeed.

    Anyway, Arsenal tends to mind it’s own business and concentrate their efforts on the club instead of wasting them on issues outside of the club. Admirable, but this is a culture of “if you do not stand up for yourself and show you’ve got teeth too, no one else will”, and people will always try to walk over you if you don’t.

    If life has taught me one thing: When good persons finally start to defend themselves, they usually defend with that much more passion and the aggressor usually gets hurt, very very badly.

    All in all, i am not really surprised at anything that goes on in UK, much less the world, because building your own wealth from raping others wealth is just the resort of people who are not really capable of creating their own wealth, hence they are just bullies, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the school yard to the world stage.

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