It has been a while coming, but now Mr Usmanov is making his move. And the moral question is, is it possible to be against Mr Usmanov the shareholder, but in favour of the arrival of Arshavin?
Russian clubs are owned by big companies for the most part. Zenit Leningrad (now known by the politically correct name of St Petersburg – which always makes me wonder what the Russian is for “political correctness gone made”) are owned by Gazprom and Gazprom’s international division (presumably the bit that keeps cutting off gas supplies to the Ukraine and bits of the EU) is chaired by that awfully nice legally active Mr Usmanov.
Mr Usmanov has, seemingly, sorted out the deal which looked dead when Arsenal offered 10 million pounds over five years and the Russians wanted 20 million now. (As in “this is non-negotiable and if you don’t pay you will witness Russian soliders with snow on their boots in the streets if Islington). Since Mr Usmanov is chairman of a division of the company that owns Zenit it is hard for the club to resist. Zenit do what Mr U says (or else you know the consequences).
Since he is a big time shareholder at Arsenal, and is doing something the Lord Wenger seems to think is desirable, he is also doing Arsenal’s bidding. Bit of a conflict of interest maybe? Well, maybe not. Who cares if we get our man?
So, is this the thin edge of the waterfall? The lull before the icecream cornet? Are we being hoisted by our own cellar door? In short, is this a metaphor too far? Or is all the world a stage? Is Mr Usmanov really being a jolly good shareholder and doing what the club wants – getting a deal with Zenit?
Obviously the Lord Wenger is never going to accept a player in his squad that he doesn’t want, so in that regard we should have no worries.
Where the worry is, is in what has happened at KGB Fulham. As I have noted, and as the Evening Standard helpfully revealed, that club now blanks out what it deems “unhelpful” comments from its own manager when it publishes the minutes of “meet the fans” sessions, (not really a sign of an open and coherant management system.) It also has no new funding for players at all, and has a no approach to paying back the money which its absentee owner now wants back.
Clubs gain stability over time, when the ownership and financial basis is well established, and is built into the tradition. That is why Arsenal has survived for around 90 years in the First Division. Sudden changes of ownership and finance do not sit easily with clubs and do not bring sustained success.
Liverpool is a perfect example of this. Moving from a club with limited debt to one in which the debts are so huge that the banks will only keep the debt running for a further six months – and then with the statement that the money must not be spent on transfers (as the Guardian has confirmed this week) shows the chaos that can result from these sudden ownership changes. Just look at the current wild ramblings of the managers ofKGB Fulham and the Liverpool Insolvents for proof (or indeed West Iceland Utd).
So back to the start: is it possible to be against the influence of Mr Usmanov and yet in favour of the arrival of a new midfielder? Is this the first step in the slippery slope towards chaos?
On the basis that anything is possible in football, probably it is possible to be in favour of both Usmanov and the new midfielder. But assuming that all this does go through, it will probably not be the last event that Mr Usmanov is involved in at the Ems. Maybe this one isn’t too troubling if our new midfielder takes us up the league and delivers a trophy or two in the next couple of years. But maybe the Arsenal-Russian activity might be a trifle more worrisome.
Couple of internal driblets: sorry for the delay in publishing some comments yesterday – I was at a trade show and then went dancing and didn’t get to a computer at all. Posts from readers who have posted twice before are automatically accepted and published, but for the first and second time it requires my ok – to cut down spam. And to confirm, I’m always honoured to be quoted on other sites etc, when there’s some acknowledgment. It’s only when someone reprints my entire ramblings as his own that I get a bit shirty. Thanks for reading. Oh and my tickets for the game at Cardiff arrived the day after I applied for them. The old cleft-stick carrying system seems to be improving.
(c) copyright Tony Attwood 2009