By Tony Attwood
According to that pack of jokers known as Football London, “Analysis from the Arsenal Supporters Trust yesterday said that the club could face a loss of up to £144 million if games resume behind closed doors and that, for the first time in their history, they may have to use a £50million overdraft facility with Barclays. Even if the overall losses do not hit those depths the AST’s findings have been met with little dispute at the Emirates Stadium.”
So why might Arsenal not dispute the statement from AST? Well, pretty much for the same reason that there will be no invitation-only meeting of members of supporters groups at the Stadium this summer. Given the amount of sniping and back-biting going on between some supporters and the club, the club, quite reasonably, has had enough.
To understand what is going on, we need to go back to 21 October 2014, when the Evening Standard ran the story that “Arsenal have £42m to spend in January, claim ‘frustrated’ Supporters’ Trust.“
The figures were denied by Arsenal at the subsequent AGM, but AST would hear nothing of it saying they had carried out an independent analysis of the club’s accounts ending 31 May 2014, revealing a major cash surplus which could be spent on transfers but which was not being used. It was then suggested that this money was being made available for other purposes.
Jumping forward on 17 October 2018 the Arsenal Supporters Trust published a document in which it concluded that “At the end of the current 2018/19 season we forecast cash available for player purchases of c£40m.”
The implication was that Arsenal’s accountants could not be trusted to tell us supporters the truth, so AST had to bring in their own men or women to do the job.
On the same day the Daily Telegraph continued the reporting under the headline “Arsenal Supporters’ Trust will voice concerns to chairman over expected financial losses,” and thus gave the story national coverage.
The headline, “Why can’t Arsenal sign anyone? The financial issues behind Unai Emery’s transfer woes” on the Football.London site on 10 January 2019, continued the theme.
AST continued stating on 12 February 2019, “At the end of the current 2018/19 season we forecast cash available for player purchases of c £40m.”
The Sun picked it up and said, “Arsenal have just £40m transfer budget this summer if they don’t reach Champions League adding, “The Gunners manager wants to overhaul his squad by bringing in at least FIVE players….Yet Emery is facing a restricted budget from Emirates chiefs unless he can finish top four after two seasons in the Europa League.” That looks increasingly unlikely with the Gunners sixth in the Prem.“Even if they did, his budget would only be about £60m…
So the story continued, and in April 2019 the Daily Mirror re-produced the story that Arsenal would be limited to £40m transfer fund unless the club managed to get into the Champions League next season.
John Cross, seemingly taking AST at their word wrote, “Arsenal chiefs are looking to bring the wage bill down meaning Unai Emery must cut his cloth accordingly this summer…. “Unai Emery will have to budget for his summer rebuilding plans around a purge on Arsenal’s wage bill. Arsenal boss Emery will be afforded around £40million to spend this summer…”
The Mirror gave no source, but it did quote that £40m figure, and then on 11 June 2019 AST issued a statement concerning Arsenal’s financial position. A number of blogs supported the “analysis” that said a) Arsenal has only £40m to spend, and b) that is not enough. In the end the media claimed around 16 groups were involved, although that seemed an exaggeration.
On 25 July 2019 the question was put to Arsenal directors at the fans forum meeting, as to why there was only a £40m budget. The reply at the meeting held at the Emirates Stadium was to the effect that “I don’t know where the £40m figure comes from. I can tell you it isn’t true.”
Most of the media dropped the tale although the Daily Express did try to keep it going by suggesting that Pepe could be bought for £70m because the fee was being negotiated to be paid over several years. But eventually, even they abandoned the pretence and the £40m claim of AST was washed away.
Despite getting the figure for expenditure last summer wrong to the tune of about £93m Arsenal Supporters Trust is still active. For example in November last year, for example they put out a statement with the headline “Arsenal need more change than just a new head coach”
Following all this, but long before the coronavirus took place Arsenal decided to cancel the pre-season meeting with supporters, because of the way directors and guests were treated by invited fans in the summer of 2019.
So, will the club be using its overdraft facility? Possibly although it won’t be the first time they have used one (although to be fair it might be the first time they have used one with Barclays). Arsenal certainly had such a facility between 1919 and 1927, during which period it was paying off the debts incurred in moving to Highbury. But was it was Barclays? I’m really not sure.
But what we do know, and what is not being made clear in the “overdraft” article, is that Arsenal are in a similar position to some other clubs in being hit by the effects of the virus. If there are transfers this summer, the chances are the prices of players will fall dramatically, since most clubs (except the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and possibly by the summer, Newcastle) will be feeling the pinch.
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- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP