By Tony Attwood
It seemed to be all over the blogs and cheap-seats newspapers too: Mourinho was in a secret meeting with Arsenal top bosses.
Football.London got so excited about it all that they even ran a computer program to find out how well Mourinho would do as Arsenal manager.
Then Arsenal put out a vigorous denial of the story and all the same publications that had run the first tale as fact or at least “according to reports” found they had another story they could run: that there was no meeting. Two stories for the price of one. Not bad eh?
Others found nifty ways around the problem. The sun’s report that the “Under-fire Arsenal boss” had been given a month to save his job suggested that the board were still unhappy with him – a neat way of trying to avoid any suggestion that all the media were rushing to the bandwagon about the meeting.
If there was a single source for the tale it could have been that Mourinho watched the Europa League win over Vitória. But then you’d expect him to watch a few matches while out of work.
As for all the people who ran the story that this was most definitely an event, I am not too sure that many of them have run an apology. Or come to that an explanation as to how the whole thing was so wrong.
Although to be fair, Arsenal are not saying that they won’t employ Mourinho (although as you’ll know from our last piece on the topic, I do hope they don’t since he looks like a manager who wins the league and leaves the club in a terrible state.)
Meanwhile on a separate issue, whenever the suggestion is made here that the Arsenal Stadium has been paid for, and was indeed paid for during Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager, then we get a few readers popping up with their absolute denial, claiming that there is still a vast amount of money to be paid off by the club for the stadium.
Naturally, the writers of such comments don’t give any information or evidence to support their claim – it is just stated. So here’s an invitation to give some evidence that the stadium has not been paid for.
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Even Arsenal Supporters’ Trust which has twice claimed that there is something very wrong with Arsenal’s accounts (on one occasion saying that money was being pushed into a secret directors’ fund, on the other saying the club has only £40m to spend on transfers) has not claimed that the stadium debt is still there.
But credit where it is due, for they did give a full analysis of the debts that Arsenal do have in an article under the heading Arsenal’s debt commitments.
They confirmed that it is the Arsenal bonds that are the big debt commitment, not the loans for the new stadium, and which will need to be repaid at some stage.
Arsenal launched their first bond in 1993 (or within a year of that, sorry I can’t see the exact date), and this was followed by a second set of bonds at prices between £3,000 and £5000 each ten years later.
These bonds were all subject to a sufficient demand for them, and it was reported at the time of the second set of bonds that interest was 11 times the number of bonds available. The aim was simply to raise loans and use the income to help the transfer budget at the time. Not to use the money to build the new stadium.
There was no offer of a discount on the cost of season tickets at the time, but there was a promise that the bond holders would be first in the queue for season tickets when the new stadium (the current one that is) was opened. There was also the promise of a dividend of £100 per bond in each season that Arsenal won a trophy in the five years after the sale. Plus interest.
So when we talk about Arsenal’s debt, it is not the debt caused by the cost of building the new stadium (that was £390m) but by the earlier fund raising while at Highbury.
The fixed rate bonds will be fully repaid by 2029, and they are costing the club about £16m a year. The floating rate bonds need to be repaid in 2031 and will cost £50m.
The debenture bonds C and D will cost £20m to redeem in 2028.
And undoubtedly all that is very boring, but that is part of the problem. When someone comes in and says Arsenal have huge debts on the stadium, and it is not true that Wenger’s success on the pitch in keeping the club in the Champions League helped pay for the stadium – and does it without the offer of any evidence, it looks rather untrue to me.
Of course if there were evidence, or indeed detail, I’d look again. If you are a regular reader you’ll know I often make mistakes – not least because Untold often deals in areas of Arsenal’s existence that are themselves unclear – but thus far I am not sure I have made one here.