By Terence McGovern
BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
When I first thought of writing this article. it occurred to me that dozens of others would be doing the same and I decided to leave them to it. Days and weeks passed and not one scrap appeared on the subject matter. At that point I felt that it was, at least for the time being, no longer topical so I decided to wait. Recent events however have reinforced my opinions and I submitted it to Tony for consideration.
I want you all to cast your mind back before the election in the UK. Gordon Brown is on a loser and he knows it. He is willing to make any play that has the potential to paint him in a popular light so he turns his attention to football. I’m sure that he decided that as football is a national obsession in the UK and pretty much everybody has a team that they support on some level, suggesting a policy change that would appeal to the majority of them was a sure fire winner.
On many levels he was correct but it would appear that he failed to factor in how unpopular his government had become and so his proposal that this same government would implement a programme that would eventually leave 25% ownership of every football club in the hands of their supporters (presumably through the mechanisms of supporters trusts) at least for now, came to naught.
Now it was a blatantly populist move with absolutely no thought as to how it could ever be achieved, but it did at the time send a chill deep into my very soul.
Forget for now the mechanics of how this would come about. I am more interested in the philosophical perspective of the idea……and how darkly dangerous it is.
On the face of it, it is fair to say that most fans would like the “idea” of being involved in the ownership of the club that they support. That being said, it is also fair to say that they wouldn’t want to have to pay for it otherwise they already would have.
The problem from my perspective is that the vast majority of fans aren’t very bright and in some cases they are thicker than two planks. One only has to see how easily that they are led up, down and around the garden path by the mainstream media especially in the last couple of days, to have that point confirmed.
Imagine if you will, the population of LeGrove, the guys that jeer our own players during matches and the people who thought it would be a good idea to leave messages on Cesc’s sister’s twitter calling him a c*** for wanting to leave, all having an input into how our club is run.
“This wouldn’t happen!” I hear you say. Wrong. Dead wrong. It was only last year at the shareholders meeting that Arsene Wenger had to put up with cheap shots at his players and the club’s policies which caused me to write my first article on this site calling for everybody to get behind the club and the team.
The problem with these types of meetings is that people tend to get an over-inflated sense of self and their own position. Just because owning 1 share allowed them to attend the meeting, they took a liberty off of the back of this to express their own minority view in an insulting and unconstructive manner.
Had I been Arsene Wenger at that meeting I would have offered to purchase his share on the spot given his unhappiness with the club. That would have shut him right up.
It is worth noting that the club has postponed the next similar meeting no doubt to avoid what is certain to be a more vicious repeat of last year’s events.
There will be a cretin sector of the supporters who will say that they have the right to express these views in whatever manner they choose because it is “their” club. To put it quite simply is is most certainly NOT their club. The club belongs to the major shareholders and not to a bunch of malcontented morons with no business acumen, no historical perspective and no common sense. Dear GOD! what would happen if this ilk of so-called fans had the influence behind them that a 25% stake would afford?
Now I know that there are many AST people who post comments here and for the most part they seem decent and reasonable supporters. It should be remembered however,that were the Supporters Trust to grow from its paltry few shares to a major shareholding stake, it would not be these reasonable well intentioned people who would be sitting at its head but rather the power-hungry, agenda-bearing, political self publicists that these organisations always draw as they gain momentum.
Give me an AST with 25% stake with Consolbob anyday because I know what I am getting but I think we all know that instead it will be somebody who will greedily consolidate their own position to make it almost impossible to shift them short of dynamite. You can bet it wouldn’t be somebody who had personally contributed heavily from their own funds to acquire the shares either. Members who did in fact own shares would find themselves watching others wield them for their own ends with little hope of change.
I am not specifically having a go at the AST here because generally speaking they are at best genuine supporters and at worst harmless in their current incarnation because they possess very little shareholding, but how benevolent would they be with a large shareholding?
One only has to look at the insanity that occurs at Real Madrid and Barcelona every election year and indeed every season with managers being sacked who “only” win La Liga but not the Champion’s League. All to please the supporters by making popular political decisions which become more important than long term planning that ensures sustainability.
It is only the inequity of TV money distribution in Spain that perpetuates the hold of the these two clubs. Were they ever to have to rely on sound decision making for success on a level financial playing field they would be badly hampered to the point of dysfuntionality by their form of ownership. Would you like that bedlam year in and year out at Arsenal because I certainly wouldn’t.
Some will point to the examples in the Bundesliga where supporter ownership has a much higher profile with Bayern Munich as an example. Bayern’s debts like those of Madrid and Barca are there to make my point for me. Success that puts the future of any club at risk is no success at all. Portsmouth may treasure their FA Cup but they do so from the championship next year and may be doing so from league1 the following year, if indeed they survive at all.
Our club may have had half a decade of no trophies but in that time they have made vast stride in terms of infrastructure and financial clout. This has in turn raised our profile on a global scale. We have held fast in our league standing against a ridiculous level of financial doping from our competitors and it finally looks like they will be called to account by either administrators or UEFA leaving us in an almost unassailable pole position. This has all been carefully engineered and shepherded by both the board and the manager and those who criticise them for it are bereft of sense and reason.
Long may it last that they are also bereft of ownership.
Editorial whatnot: If you want to write for Untold Arsenal please drop an email to Tony@hamilton-house.com Please note however we only publish articles that relate to our central pro-Wenger approach. If you have differing views you are lucky – there’s loads of sites you can write for.
The Index of Indexes to Everything Positive and Nice (except Fifa and its bent world cup)
Woolwich Arsenal – now there is a club on the brink of disaster
The Book – not as useful as the Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy, but still, quite good for a read during the summer break.