By Tony Attwood
Ivan Gazidis is the chief executive of Arsenal FC. I’m, well, the editor of Untold Arsenal, and the Arsenal History site, and I write books and adverts.
And we met, Mr Gazidis and I, in an office in Highbury House (which if you are not able to get to the matches I should explain, is the office block which was built at the same time as the Ems, about half way between the stadium and the old ground – you walk underneath them if you go up the steps at the north bridge.)
I would like to say that Mr Gazidis called me in for me to advise him on some of the finer points of running the club, but the truth of it is that I was there as part of the regular meetings held between committee members of Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, and the top echelon at Arsenal.
On this occasion there were three people from AISA, Mr Gazidis, and Arsenal’s head of communications. It is the first of these meetings that I have attended, and I used the occasion to talk about the Arsenal History project that is (as you may know if you have been paying attention so far) very dear to my heart.
It would not be appropriate for me to talk about what was said in the meeting, because the whole point of it is that it is an informal way in which AISA can relay to the club at the highest level what is going on in supporters’ minds, and for AISA to get feedback from the club on its new projects. And part of that informality is that confidences are respected.
But the fact that this liaison exists is the key thing – because it shows that there is a desire within the club to hear the views of supporters.
It’s not the only way in which this liaison works – the club also has meetings with representatives of Silver Membership, Red Membership, Arsenal Supporters Trust and Red Action, through a supporters’ panel, but this meeting is a chance for AISA to put across its own members views.
If you are a member of AISA (and if not why not? you should be!) the news about this sort of work will get through to you that way, but there are few bits and pieces I can reveal…
There are terrific plans for expansion of Arsenalisation into the upper level concourses and spaces – we saw the photos of what is planned to put on the walls during the early part of the season, and it will make the spaces look much more exciting.
And within my own area of interest, there is a real enthusiasm within the club for a development of the Arsenal History project. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’ve done a piece for the Arsenal in the Community book on fans and their experiences, and this has led on to talk about a definitive Woolwich Arsenal book. I believe that Arsenal FC really want to take this development of historical awareness further, and to explore ways of taking this awareness of our club’s past beyond the Arsenalisation project itself.
At this stage I can’t really say any more about AISA’s Arsenal History project, basically because it is now up to me to start putting clear proposals to Mr Gazidis for ideas and ways in which Arsenal’s history can be celebrated more fully – and certainly if you have any ideas and want to feed them to me please do. Once the AISA plans have been submitted to Arsenal, and Arsenal has made a response, I ought to be able to start writing it up on the Arsenal History site.
but let me say that one of the starting points that I presented is perhaps the most obvious of ideas – and one that has been floated around on the Arsenal History site, that we have a large statue of Herbert Chapman somewhere outside the ground, so that his presence is recorded for everyone – not just those who enter via the Director’s entrance, or who go on the stadium tour, or indeed who dine in the newly re-worked restaurants at club level.
I can’t say this will happen – this was after all just a preliminary meeting, and there are a million practical issues to be considered. But my point is that through the good offices of AISA I personally had the opportunity to put this idea, and a few others, to the chief exec of the club – and I do personally believe that as a result some of these projects will happen in the future.
The three of us from AISA also had a tour, to look at the changes in club level and I must say I am green with envy of everyone who has a club level ticket. I am, even as I write, working out if I could go and get a fourth mortgage on Untold Apartments so I can afford a ticket there. Having done that I wouldn’t be able to afford to eat or drink there, but it would still be worth it.
There is one part of Club Level where the walls are decorated as a series of comic strips relaying magic moments from the past. That must sound very naff the way I have said it – so I won’t try and describe what else has been done, but if you have a club level ticket you’ll know, if not, go on the tour when you get the chance.
So that was it. Me and Mr Gazidis. Close as… well, across the desk. And I shook hands with him. And I gave him a copy of “Making the Arsenal” – so if you want to be seen reading the same book as the Chief Executive of Arsenal FC, you know what book you need.
Overall, the fact that AISA can set up these meetings speaks volumes for AISA and I would strongly recommend membership. Of course I would, because I am now on the committee of AISA, but I started out as a regular member, believing it was right to support the club through the Association. And having seen the sort of contact that the Association has with the club, I am really impressed.
Sorry, I know this was not a regular Untold Arsenal sort of post, analysing finances, predicting the demise of most of the second division, and considering the tactics of our midfield. But it was, for me, a great morning, and I hope I can repay everyone who asked me to be involved, by coming up with some worthwhile ideas on how we can celebrate Arsenal’s history.
And I am somewhere up on the ceiling.
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