Understanding football through endless repetition: how to get things totally wrong

By Tony Attwood

If there is one thing that has really influenced – indeed taken over – football in the past five years it is what New Scientist magazine recently called “Trial by Repetition”.  The observable fact that if you say something often enough it becomes perceived to be true, irrespective of whether there is any evidence to support the claim or not.

I discovered the power of this myself when working with the Arsenal History Society on the influence of Sir Henry Norris on Arsenal.  Slowly as I researched his period as chairman of Arsenal FC I began to realise that most of the “facts” that we “knew” about him were actually completely untrue.

And not just a slight misreading of the events but utterly, totally and completely untrue.  Absolute falsehoods in fact.

It then took me another couple of years of research to find out what was going wrong – and having done that it all seemed obvious and easy to explain what happened.   Over 20 years after he was sacked by Sir Henry, Leslie Knighton, the man who managed Arsenal before Herbert Chapman, wrote his autobiography.  In it he took his revenge on Sir Henry (by then long since passed away, and so utterly unable to answer back).  Not because Knighton was a vindictive or nasty man who was by and large an utter failure of a manager (the latter is true, but as to the former I don’t know) but because he was paid good money in his retirement to come up with some juicy “facts” and his protagonist was now long in his grave.

As I read through that autobiography two things became clear.  First, the overwhelming majority of what Knighton said about Sir Henry was blatantly false.  And I don’t mean in some minor technical way – his tales when checked against the facts which are part of historical record (such as transfers, the achievements of players signed and the like) were palpably not accurate records of history.

Second, it is clear from reading most subsequent commentaries on Arsenal under Sir Henry, (indeed one can say all the subsequent commentaries before the Arsenal History Society came along) that it is the Knighton version of events which is believed, rather than the events as laid down in checkable facts.

In other words, subsequent writers have chosen to believe the unsubstantiated words of a manager who by any measure was a downright failure, in an autobiography written for serialisation in a Sunday newspaper, rather than the facts which anyone could check.

The conclusion is that people can’t be arsed to check and instead believe what they want to believe.

I was  moved to come back to this theme by the article in New Scientist mentioned above.  New Scientist is a popular but serious scientific journal in the UK, and not one prone to telling wild stories that appear in Sunday newspapers.  The article in question (“Trial by repetition”) tells how the UK government has published a document declaring that invasive species (ie plants and animals not previously native to the UK) have been responsible for 40% of the animal extinctions in the UK in the past 400 years.

The source of the figure is Global Biodiversity Outlook published by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity which sounds pretty serious, convincing and correct.

Now this may all seem pretty dry and non-football, but I will come to footy in a moment, I promise.

The 2006 UN report came from a paper from Cornell University the previous year which drew on a paper from 1998 which wasn’t actually talking about the UK, but the threat of (not actual) extinctions in Hawaii.

When complaints were made the UN report was changed – and it upgraded the claim to “more than half of the animal extinctions”.  This time it cited a paper from Trends in Ecology and Evolution (a very learned journal and not your light reading after two glasses of red over sunday lunch).

That paper turns out to be four paragraphs long.  There are no details of the species considered, and when New Scientist contacted the authors they said the hadn’t kept their notes on which species they considered.  An earlier report that says that just 2% of all extinctions were due to species from other territories entering the eco system, was ignored.

Now my point in this long diversion (for the half dozen readers of Untold still with me) is that if this happens with serious scientific studies, UN and government reports on matters of how to sustain our environment, can you imagine how it happens with football?

I’ve written extensively on the AHS site about Henry Norris but quite often get comments back about “what are you doing defending a crook?” without any evidence.

But much more to the point, let me (if I may) take you back to the issue of transfers.

The media has combined with the blogettas to create a view that if a manager does not buy three top players in a transfer window he is not doing his job and should be sacked.

Leaving aside the notion that the normal reason for dismissing a person is that he is not getting the final result (eg a trophy or enough profit for restructuring) rather than what are argued to be one but not the only means for getting the result (buying players), there is the issue of the endless passing of supposition as fact during this last transfer window and thereafter.  Such as

  1.  The fact that 99.999% of “done deals” reported in the media were not done at all.
  2. The fact that 75% of high value transfers don’t result in the player bringing play of the highest quality to his new team.
  3. The fact that a number of members of the current Arsenal squad who are shown in statistics to be among the most effective players in their position in the league, were brought in as youngsters for little or no or a modest transfer fee or as unknowns, (Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Koscielny…)
  4. The fact that we still bring players through from the under 21s – such as Bellerin – who turn out to be brilliant.
  5. The fact that clearly most of the rumours in the papers about Arsenal being able to sign player X but failing to do so, are not backed up by a single shred of evidence.

These facts are enough to make anyone with an open mind start to consider the importance of the transfer window.

But no, each report follows another and follows another, with everyone copying and not going back and checking.

A few years ago, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews brought to me the most amazing account of the early days of Woolwich Arsenal FC which we published as Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.  (See the link below at the foot of the article, for more information).

That story had been utterly mistold year after year after year, until our book came out, with every successive author repeating the story previous told about how Arsenal nearly went bust because all the local teams refused to play them once they became a professional club etc etc and no mention about how a splinter group within the club had tried and nearly succeeded in destroying Woolwich Arsenal FC.  In fact the opposite to the “wouldn’t play” notion was true – the local clubs were clamouring to play Arsenal, because Arsenal brought the biggest gate of the season.

So it goes on.  The untrue tale is repeated ad infinitum because it makes a bigger headline.  Our story of Woolwich Arsenal’s origins was significant because it refuted all the previous “facts.”  The information we have on Henry Norris likewise knocks out huge amounts about the assumed history of the man.  And today we have this wild and whacky idea that the only way to build a team is to buy in the summer transfer window.

The same is true with the endless comment that Arsenal has the most expensive season ticket prices in the world.  I have given up pointing out how silly a statement this is, and now simply don’t publish the comments of people who write it.  Instead I demand some evidence.  I don’t get it.

Mind you, if the scientific community in liaison with the government and UN gets it so wrong, what chance have we got?

But still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

  • 6 September 1905: Morris Bates died from TB aged 41.  He was the captain when Royal Arsenal won their first two trophies.  He played 73 first team games for Royal Arsenal between 1896 and 1890.
  • 6 September 1913 First match at Highbury.  Arsenal beat Leicester Fosse 2-1 in what was the first opening day victory since 1906.  20,000 present.  George Jobey scored the first Arsenal goal at the ground but was later taken off injured.  See also George Jobey,  The Day it Began and Season Ticket Prices.

The Untold Books

54 Replies to “Understanding football through endless repetition: how to get things totally wrong”

  1. I see Benzema has come out and said there was never anything in the stories linking him to Arsenal, as did Wenger and Benitez. Yet because it was constantly rammed down our throats by every media outlet and his dog on a daily basis, it became accepted as the truth that we were trying to buy him.

  2. Repetition is what you do best Tony.

    Keep telling yourself and the feeble minded dim wits that Wenger played a blinder by not doing his job and it will become truth…

    We didn’t need any new signings… It’s all the referees and medias fault.

    This smacks of ever more desperation

  3. I would like to offer a quote in total support of the argument (as am I).
    “People are too quick to accept conventional wisdom, because it sounds basically true and it tends to be reinforced by both their peers and opinion leaders, many of whom have never looked at whether the facts support the received wisdom. It’s a basic fact of life that many things “everybody knows” turn out to be wrong.” ― Jim Rogers.
    The man knew!!!!

  4. Tony
    Why is it that you write such “grown-up articles”, when not all your readers and respondents are “grown-up”
    Please keep it up and maintain my sanity

  5. Tony,
    “The fact that 75% of high value transfers don’t result in the player bringing play of the highest quality to his new team”

    Dont you think that line is a little misleading? The article that the line came from includes Ozil (and Ronaldo!) in the 75%. The author of the original article categorised big money transfers into three buckets- instant hits, total flops and mixed bag. Ozil and Ronaldo fell into the third bucket- as did a lot of other good players. So, yes.. 75% of high value transfers are not instant hits- and that’s quite different from the statement above.

  6. Reportedly, Ministers of Religion were trained to prepare a sermon on the basis of:-

    1. tell them what you are going to say
    2. say it
    3. tell them what you have said.

    Politicians take this to a new level – they constantly repeat the message of the day irrespective of the circumstances or relevelance to a question they may have been asked.

    So it is no surprise that in sport, where much money is involved, something similar happens in the media. However, the propaganda does not even out in the end – there always appears to be a desire in the media to blacken Arsenal, either through ticket prices, transfer policy, team results or player assination. The question is – why – and who. Who is responsible for directing the anti Arsenal nonsense in the media?

  7. Well for a start, the chief sports writer in the Daily Mail (Jeff Powell) is a lifelong Spurs fan.

  8. bjtgooner,
    Your analogy is enlightening- but we can ask ourselves the reverse question- are we trying to make everyone else believe that there is an anti-Arsenal agenda with our own ‘sermons’? The feeling of belonging to a group is always strengthened by shared perceptions of injustice.

  9. We must be very careful that, for whatever reason, the lack of business on behalf of our great club during each Window opening, PLUS the perceived bias against us by the referee in every match we play……
    doesn’t develop into raging paranoia.

  10. I totally agree – great article.
    It’s more than 5 years though.

    Here are probably the two biggest falsehoods repeated endlessly.

    1) Arsenal have been financially constrained since moving to the Emirates.
    2) Finishing in 4th place is success for Arsenal and means Wenger has done a great job because of point 1.

    Fans, some media and blogettas so taken with Wenger because of his early brilliance have combined to find every excuse possible to distort the reality of the past 10 years to the point where they can claim he is a genius (instead of a manger who has under achieved for over a decade).

  11. You have become a parody of yourself and you don’t know it because you have spoken what you believe the truth is obsessively.

  12. Oh Dex didn’t the nice man buy you any sweeties again. You will be ok when the sun goes to bed & school starts tomorrow.

    Perhaps Jayram & you can play rounders in the park.

  13. The point I an trying to make (as Mr Average follower of our great club), is that in all my 80 years of reading about and watching Arsenal play, I never noticed any real bias against the club in the media or on the football field until……I began to read the pages on Untold.
    That is not in any way a criticism of the site. Just a matter of fact. 😉

  14. Jayram,

    Could you care to elaborate on the supposed falsity of point 1? And funnily enough, many others on this site blame the journalists for doing the exact opposite…

    Well, to each his own..

  15. @menace well put….what I don’t understand with the WOB is their sense of entitlement to have success i.e the PL or CL and that changing manager will solve the problem. Why is it the anti Wengers are selective e.g. Last 10 years, why not the last 17 years, why not the last 2 years?

    Good article Tony, nice to see Dex and Jayarm prove the theory.

  16. @hrishi

    Re your 6.34pm post.

    Why should we ask the reverse question?

    Is there evidence we are constantly producing sermons – sermons which are well separated from reality/truthfulnes?

    Or, is it the case that Untolders are reacting to the erroneous propaganda of others?

    Have you experienced the “sharing” of injustice? If so, to aid our wider understanding, can you again share the experience? You might feel good about that. 🙂

  17. Things that are repeatedly endlessly can of course also be true, and usually are.
    But Wenger is an employee working for a board. Presumably he has agreed objectives and constraints, like every manager in business. If one of Wenger’s objectives was to bring in 3 world class players in the transfer window, then clearly he failed. And so did the team of people charged with managing the transfer process.
    If success is defined as bringing in 3 world class players, then the target should be the board, for not setting that as an objective, which they surely did not.

  18. @hrishi

    I have written extensively on the finances. There is much to learn from reading the actual accounts but here are a couple of points to consider.

    1) From the second year of moving to the Emirates, Arsenal’s group profit increased as did their net profit (taxable – INCLUDES stadium debt repayments). i.e. the extra income more than covered the debt repayment annually. This has enabled Arsenal to build up huge cash reserves. In the years where our profit has dipped, though still positive, it is where we have invested in players. Where we didn not invest our net profit soared and thus the cash reserves have grown massively over the period from 2006 to today’s date.

    Here is a run down by year of our group operating profit excluding player trading and financing:

    2005-6 13.7m (year before 1st Emirates season)
    2006-7 51.2m
    2007-8 59.6m
    2008-9 70.5m
    2009-10 72.0m
    2010-11 50.5m
    2011-12 34.5m
    2012-13 29.6m
    2013-14 62.4m

    Here are the numbers POST finance costs and player trading. Note the financing costs are about £13m a year.

    2005-6 £15.9m
    2006-7 £5.6m debt repayments were especially high in the year 1 of the Emirates with an additional exeptional financial repayment of over £20m
    2007-8 £36.7m
    2008-9 £45.5m
    2009-10 £56.0m
    2010-11 £14.8m
    2011-12 £36.6m
    2012-13 £6.7m
    2013-14 £4.7m

    Note those last 2 years is where we actually started to spend on world class players without offloading our best players.

    It is just a harsh reality that the story of financial constraint that we are ‘now coming out of’ is just a story. Spin by the club and fans that want to pretend Wenger was unable to compete and thus 4th place was brilliant.

    2) The club has lied to uneducated fans claiming the majority of their huge cash balance is needed to run the in year finances of the club (cashflow) when in fact the accounts clearly show they often lend between £100-125m to either corporations or banks in the form of short term deposits. The lie is further revealed when you consider no other club in the PL has carried anywhere near as much cash. The lie is yet further further revealed when you consider the year on year steady growth in cash. The question must be asked as to why we need to hold so much cash – because it is not to cover in year costs as the club have claimed.

    There is a whole lot more to talk about – nuances each year of course – and further detail that is indeed hidden in the accounts.

  19. Jayram

    So you are saying that without a sugar daddy, and building a stadium that cost £390 Million, we somehow had the same money, or at least enough money to compete on a level footing, with 2 Clubs that where NOT building a £390 million stadium, and had sugar daddies openly sponsoring them to the tune of at least half a Billion quid each?

    You can produce stats such as you have, but simple, schoolboy logic tells you that we simply must of been at a huge financial disadvantage.

    I wish you where doing my books when I was self employed because it sounds like you could of turned my poultry earnings into a fortune with your razor sharp grasp of accountancy.

  20. Dex and Jayramfootball

    2 guys that hate everything that Wenger stands for yet here they are, everyday, on an openly pro Wenger site, stinking the place out.


    It’s like a Socialist going to a Tory rally.

    Why would they do that?

    They can only be there for one thing. Trouble. To wind up. To provoke.

    That, or else they’re arrogant enough to think they’re actually educating us.

  21. Good evening Chief T Attwood. Please, who are the slinter group within the Woolwich Arsenal FC, you referred to as, “almost destroyed the club?” Are they the ones being referred to todays as the AAA? I read an article today on the Daily Mail online tagged ” Arsenal have had a better transfer window than any other Premier League club! I like the article, because it pointed out the truth on the hidden reasons behind the Boss none signing of any outfield player in the last concluded summer transfer window. I don’t think this is a make to believe story as the article is supported with facts & figures. In this light, I hope the AOBs will see the reasons for the no more summer signings by the Boss, and pipe down and accept the obvious reasons. Let the AOBs, the AST and even the AKBs join hands together and bury their intolerable differences against each others to uplift Arsenal FC to the greatest height on and off the field this season.

  22. @jambug

    I am just stating the facts. You hate the ‘stats’ it seems and prefer to discuss things like a ‘£390m stadim’ as if the big number meant anything at all to our ability to invest over the last 10 years. The stadium repayments are far far less than the increase in income post the move to the Emirates. That is a simple and undeniable fact.

    I am NOT saying we could have spent £500m-£1000m as City and Chelsea have done, however we could have invested significantly more money in the team. For example from 2007-10 we could have invested £100m over 3 years and still been in an extremely comfortable position… 3 world class players of the ilk of Ozil and Alexis for instance. Instead we were getting rid of top players.

    The financial strategy of Arsenal has been a choice, not a constraint. Why, for instance, lend £100m+ of our cash and then claim we need it for cash flow??

    I do not hate Arsene Wenger or Gazidis. I just think they are doing a poor job in football terms. In financial terms, great. I would love them if I was Kroenke. They make a great deal of money and the cash flow does a great job of keeping net debt low and valuations high.

    You can make the argument black and white all you like – hate or love Wenger, a real fan or an anti fan, a genius or an idiot. I don’t accept or buy into any of that. I am just calling out the lie about how constrained Wenger has been.

  23. Dex……you are an arrogant little sex organ aren’t you:

    1. IF anyone is guilty of constant mindless repetition on UA, you lead the pack!

    2. Wenger didn’t do his job, according to you….. So what are his specific job description and objectives?

    3. We DIDN’T need any new signings you pompous little dimwit, as has been clearly explained to you and others by countless excellent articles on the UA. BUT you choose to believe the media twats and whine about not getting a new toy!

    4. You sound increasingly desperate to be listened to but once again you have mistakenly confused UA members with those who care about your opinions.

    .5. Please get back into your aaa closet and watch your true soul-sisters, the SPUDS.

  24. Dex, you know what I genuinely don’t understand is why people such as yourself continue to read Untold.

    I know that there are many people who don’t accept the arguments that are put forward here to support the point of view that those of us who run the site have. That of course is to be expected. Indeed I started the site because I felt that the pressure of the media meant that those people who I met at the Arsenal games and who did support the manager were often not heard.

    But given that the anti-Wenger camp and the aaa lobby has its own organisation (the AST) which you can join, and is daily represented by articles on everything from Le Grove and the blogetas to the Daily Mail, which has a permanent link to the Grove site, why bother with us.

    Surely it only tortures you, or upsets you. Don’t you have other things to do.

    I glance at the right wing press to see what they are saying about Arsenal, and occasionally to use them as source material for my articles about the media, but as far as I know you don’t write about the media. So why do you do it?

  25. Bjt,

    Sermons separated from reality?- difficult to answer that really. Can’t really assign a degree of truth to them like you can to an article in the Metro titled “DONE DEAL:Arsenal to sign world-class star” or “Fans BLAST Wenger for failure in transfer market”.

    However, whether that latter article can be used as an example of Anti-Arsenal propaganda is a matter of perspective. To me, its just a reflection of the sorry state that the media is in today- nothing more.

    Assuming your last question wasn’t rhetorical, I am going to answer it with a resounding yes! Felt it on the first day of the 13-14 season, on the day of our 6-0 loss to Chelsea, on the day Van Persie was given a second yellow against Barca for continuing to play on after the ref blew the whistle for offside and when we lost the final against the same team 5 years earlier. And about that last incident, I went on to tell anyone who would listen that Lehmann should not have been red carded!- got away with it then because not a lot of people watch football in India and reason and debate was not commonplace among stubborn 13 year olds (which I happened to be then) 😀

    I appreciate your detailed answer to my question. While our stockpile of cash has been well documented, those profits that we earned during the ‘lean years’ was maintained at those levels by player sales and Champions League Qualification. And, even if we had used that money to buy, would it have been enough to counter three clubs with larger funds? You might ask: “But why dont we even try?” That strategy would have probably been more rewarding, trophy-wise, but, on a risk-adjusted basis, and considering the fact that we had a stadium to finance, a more conservative strategy was appropriate. At least it was in my humble opinion.
    Were we, in those years, worse than the fourth best team in England- I dont think so. So, in any given year, we would have been expected to finish in the Top 4. No over-achievement there. But to maintain that for all those years was certainly some feat. Which is why Wenger was given a target of 3 CL campaigns out of five..

  26. @ Jayram

    If I am to understand you, (correct me if I’m wrong) the yearly loan repayment is about £13m or if I am to quote you

    “Here are the numbers POST finance costs and player trading. Note the financing costs are about £13m a year.”

    I want to use common sense and assume that the bulk of the money used to build the stadium was borrowed. Now £13m paid over 10 years equals £130m. This does not include interests over time and just covers 33% of the stadium cost.

    Just wandering if we could have paid off the bulk of loan taken out for the stadium construction. I don’t know the exact financial details but you theory/figures smell of falsehood.

    Can you elaborate more if I’m wrong. JUST USING COMMON SENSE

  27. Jamramfootball.

    You have stated that “I am NOT saying we could have spent £500m-£1000m as City and Chelsea have done, however we could have invested significantly more money in the team. For example from 2007-10 we could have invested £100m over 3 years and still been in an extremely comfortable position…”

    Maybe, but that does not mean that we would have had a better side. That’s really my point – that buying two or three top players automatically gives success – in any division.

    If it were, then why are so many managers sacked every year, as the earlier article on Untold showed.

    It is not a case that we could have spent the money and didn’t, it is an argument about whether spending the money automatically brings success. I think not.

  28. Well said Tony!

    And now to cheer us all up (us Untolders that is) – Theo has scored two goals and Alexis has scored one in the international break!

    So there’s a good chance they will come back to us with their shooting boots on.

  29. @Tony

    I agree. Using the money we have built up may not have brought success. We will never know. I am merely stating that the funds were there to spend more than we did. Quite a lot more. It is why I hold the posiiton that the financial strategy is a choice as opposed to something that was shackling the club. I have heard a lot from fans about a new era and we’re now able to spend. This is just not the reality.


    No, my personal view is that football clubs should run at breakeven. Too idealistic in today’s world I know, but Arsenal did have scope to invest significantly more than they did over the last 10 years.


    We still have huge debt left on the stadium to be paid off. Club debt was still at £240m overall at the end of 13/14 season. We hear a lot about net debt these days, but that takes into account the £207m in cash we hold. So net debt is £34m. Net finance charges in 13/14 were £13.018m. These are not my numbers, they are all in the accounts.

  30. @hrishi

    It was not player sales that drove our profits. That is the reason I always look at, and listed, gross operating profit also. There was a huge jump in profits post the Emirates move as you would expect. The net spend on players over the period was fairly break even over the period.

    I do however think you are right – the club took a very conservative approach to risk.
    My opinion is that the conservatism was over the top and the outcome, in my view, shows that. Huge profit, more cash reserves than any club in the league by far and a poor run in terms of on field success. The discussion simply is not as simple as some would make it, good vs bad, right vs wrong. It is more a case of extremes and balance.

  31. Pat – I’ll drink to that!! Shooting boots are certainly what we need.

    Jayram- wonderful bit of research but poor interpretation. The sums you mention as operating profit are not profit retained for player purchase. The major part of that profit is our 4th place success. Trophies will not generate half as much unless they are the EPL & ECL. The expenditure still exists as we are not debt free.

    The new TV money will make a lot of difference as it will to all EPL clubs. It means that these clubs can buy players at exorbitant prices. Gratefully Wenger will not partake of the false pie. It may piss you off & I hope it does, because I know he will make it with nothing & a small aubergine.

    Jai Wenger, Jai Arsenal!

  32. @Menace

    I am araid the numbers mentioned include profit at the gross level (pre player trading and finance costs) AND profit after all player trading and finance payments.

    You can try and distort the reality if you like but it won’t work because the numbers are in the public record.

    The second set of numbers is club profit pre tax – simple. The numbers show why our cash has grown so significantly.

    I agree that our profits and cash will soar even higher with new income streams landing from the next set of accounts. Where we disagree is on Wenger’s strategy. So far ‘his’ strategy (probably not his in fact) has not got him close to winning the league since he adopted it in 2006 and I believe that will continue.

  33. @Brickfields

    I am just back in town, and only for a couple of days. I brought up Cowboys and western music (nominally related to the Ox giving Jenkinson a hard time about his preferences in music). Last night on CBC Vinyl Tap, was a repeat of a show themed on the word “Cowboy”. And I can’t find it on the CBC website. He had lots of interesting context, not all of it country. Sting. Elton John. The second song ever released by Leann Rhymes (sp?), which has yodeling in it.

    It might update your list of western song subjects.

    Good luck to Welbeck in his recovery. Not enough in the Arsenal.com article to figure out why he had problems recovering, or how long this might take.

    Nice to see the Ladies win while I was away.

  34. Seen 1 blurb from Hogdson about Welbeck. Because Arsenal.com said months, he is guessing 6 months. Which has stupid written all over it.

    Alexis is apparently 9 goals away from becoming Chile’s all-time leading scorer. Go Alexis!


    How’s this for a headline?

    “Arsenal misses out on premiership for the 60th time”

    This is a story out of Australia, and refers to women’s field hockey.

    Maitland-Niles scores for England U19 against Germany


  35. want to ask about the money Arsenal have as the director stated before, 200M ?

    is that the reserve money, the allocation budget for buying new player, or the money for all player in the new season?

  36. If any body believes that last years squad was the full package they are mistaken. We had to buy at least two players to be able to progress. One, a strong DM as cover and two, a more direct and ruthless striker.

  37. All,
    If you wish to understand the financial situation over the last few years, please ignore some of the selective users of financial reporting above and go to The Swiss Ramble. His impartial analysis is truly enlightening. And really doesn’t support what those purporting to have the financial Ben above have tried to present as the truth.

  38. I am not an accountant or have had any dealings with money matters in the proffesional role,but I remember reading something about Arsenal having to keep a certain amount of cash in the bank to cover the stadium debt until the repayment is completed.

  39. It was around 30m. Below the and debt covenants would be breached meaning the creditors could take ownership of the assets.

  40. Throughout the so called lean years the club was never in a state of penury, finance was always available but the club chose how to spend it.It was their choice of whether to invest on the pitch or on infrastructure. They chose the latter and set up a policy which they still adhere to.

  41. AFC secured a £260m loan from a group of banks led by Royal Bank of Scotland in April 2003. AFC also lunched a bond scheme issuing btw 3000 and 3500 bonds for btw £3500 & £5000 raising several millions from the scheme.

    Arsenal later issued £210m worth of bonds with different logistics to be paid over a 25 year period with interest rates at 5.14% and 5.97% to reduce debt service cost to approx £20m per year.

    Note that although the stadium cost £390m, other costs included redevelopment project at Drayton Park, improvements to 3 Railway stations (Holloway Road, Drayton Park and Finsbury Park) as well as building a new waste disposal site at Lough Road. (I don’t live in London nor so I can’t say.) All these brought the project cost to £470m (Source: Wikipedia)

    Daily mail puts the debt service cost at £35m

    Arsene Wenger said in Feb 2012 that Arsenal pay back about £15m for debt servicing.

    I am not an accountant and all the above figures are contradictory by I personally think the club has paid down on a bulk of its total debt like Bayern Munchen which paid off its 30 years loan deal in 7 years.

  42. Something that many people also remember should bear in mind:

    We’re not Real Madrid and we’re not Barcelona. Just because we come knocking at a players door, doesn’t make them want to invite us in for ‘Netflix and Chill’, even if we flash a load of cash and a Nando’s Black card.

    Life isn’t a computer game. It isn’t always about upping the money.

  43. Jayram

    Yes, pretty sure Arsenal have been prudent over the last decade. When you owe hundreds of millions and are clearly vulnerable to, e.g. not qualifying for the Champions League, then the club’s management obviously figured this was the smart route to take.

    But what is also clear that the new sponsorship deals, replacing the front-loaded ones required to finance the stadium, kicked in. So two summers ago. Then we started spending. You don’t mention this but to me it is of critical significance.

    I am sure that Arsenal could have spent significantly more over the past decade – but to what end? We still would have been hundreds of millions behind Chelsea/MC/MU and would have been very unlikely to win the League. Perhaps 3rd rather than 4th, or even 2nd rather than 3rd.

    Surely a better strategy was to spend enough to ensure we remained in the top 4 – but otherwise to keep our powder dry until we were in more of a position to compete. We are still miles behind the rich 3 – but, with our superb manager, we now have a chance. More so than we would have been, if say, we had (re)mortgaged ourselves up to the hilt 5 years ago.

  44. In general, fans don’t think enough about downside risk. Just ask Leeds, Portsmouth, Glasgow Rangers and countless other clubs who spent wildly and are now living hand to mouth.

    Also, I am uncomfortable with the term “invest” in the context of buying players. As noted, they depreciate rapidly, require a long term commitment to wages – and there is no guarantee of success at all.

    “Investment” in infrastructure is a far better use of the term. I prefer to think of player acquisitions as “spending”. Even more so when it is in the context of a 28 year already slightly past his peak with little resale value.

  45. Dex – a bit late to this, but:

    1. Who would you have bought?
    2. How much would you have paid?
    3. Which current player would they displace from the first team?

    Still haven’t really had any good answers to these questions – could you be the first…?

  46. @Nonny – just use the accounts.

    It states clearly we have a debt of £240m as at the end of 2014.
    It also highlights our net finance repayments each year.

    No guessing or speculation is necessary.

  47. @Pete

    I kind of understand your point – but I am not really sure what has changed. We still cn’t spend anywhere near Utd, City or Chelsea so why will our manager now be able to make the current strategy work?

  48. Jayram is quoting Gross Profit before Tax.

    Repeat NOT net profit after Tax!

    As for the Cash balances at 31st May each year, this includes next season’s ticket renewals. The next season’s ticket sales are equivalent to clients’ account advances. Value Added tax on the ticket sales will be payable in July (?)

    There is little cash received during June and July.

    From the past accounts we can hazard a quess, some £100 millions cannot be drawn upon or June/July salaries and other operation expenses.

    Ignore that person completely!

  49. Why do you assume that a few astute purchases would be likely to send the club to Carey Street. It isn’t always necessary to break the bank to improve the squad.

  50. @notoverthehill

    The numbers are pre tax. Correct. You can see the tax expenditure in the accounts. Does not make a difference to the discussion at all.

    The cash flows are of course post tax.

    Interesting that you seem to have some insider knowledge on the month to month cash flows including the amounts necessary to cover June July wages. Are you sure we receive no income in June July? How are the TV payments made… After each match or more structured? When does the CL money hit the accounts? When does PL prize money hit the accounts?

    What is most interesting is that the cash is GROWING year on year. It’s because of increased profit since the move to the Emirates. That was the original point. We have had no constraint but rather chosen this strategy.

    Unless there is some huge cash outflow in June and July then your speculation on the £100m tied up is just that. Speculation.

  51. Anyhow, back to the article.

    The endless repetition of the point that …


    Jamram I am not allowing this. The article doesn’t mention the point you made in any way, so to use that as an example simply isn’t on. You have made that point many, many, many times, and if you want to conduct the argument further then either wait for an article on the point, or do it on your own web site, but not here.

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