By Sir Hardly Anyone, transfer correspondent of the Rutland Water Gazette.
If you are a reader of the AISA Arsenal History Society website you’ll know that after the takeover of the club in 1910, the aim was to make the club self-sufficient, which had always been the intention of those who founded the professional club in 1893.
Arsenal needed rescuing financially in 1910 and the new owner, Henry Norris, paid off all the debts, including those to the architect of their ground (Archie Leitch) which for some reason did not show up on the debtors list at the time of the sale. (The full story of the takeover is told in the series “Henry Norris at the Arsenal”
It was a dramatic move, and one that shocked much of the football world, where clubs were generally either abandoned by their owners when financial times got tough, or were funded by wealthy individuals or large companies. Indeed self-funding clubs was never part of the original model – many clubs were openly sponsored by companies or the wealthy in the early days. Arsenal, trying to live within their means were something of an exception in 1910.
The approach that was used by Arsenal was to move the club in 1913 to a new ground 11 miles across the city – and a very successful idea it was too, In the final season at the Manor Ground Arsenal had an average attendance of 9395 for league games. The following season, 1913/14, the first at Highbury, the average crowd was 22,745. An increase of 242%.
The new ground with its much higher crowds helped fund Arsenal’s recovery, and make the club profitable, rather than being dependent on the largess of its owners.
However despite the success of this model most clubs have continued to run at a loss with funding from owners keeping the club afloat. This funding previously could come in the form of donations from the owners, but of course as we know, that is now strictly forbidden and penalised by Uefa, and so instead clubs gain a lot of additional income from sponsorships.
On 4 August 2008, for example, Manchester City was taken over by Sheikh Mansour, described by Wikipedia as “one of football’s wealthiest owners, with an estimated individual net worth of at least £17 billion and a family fortune of at least $1 trillion.” Sheikh Mansour bought for £210 million.
Manchester City have to pay a rent for their ground which was originally paid for by the tax payer, but it is hard to see how much. The Guardian said in 2011 it was £2m a year, which would be way below the commercial rate. The Telegraph quoted £3m. Either way it was quite small.
Given the low cost of the stadium for Manchester City, and the generosity of their owners, and the way in which Uefa have chosen to administer Financial Fair Play, Mancheseter City have a lot of money available to buy players, and it must be admitted that this has been to Arsenal’s benefit. Here are some examples…
Arsenal bought him from Marseille in 2008 for £15.8m and then sold him to Manchester City in 2011 for £22, – a profit to Arsenal of £6.2m. He played on average 29 games a season for Arsenal. That reduced to 24 games a season for Manchester C before he was loaned to Sevilla. But what made this move so interesting was that the move to Manchester C came when Nasri would have been out of contract at the end of the season, and was refusing to sign a new deal. Arsenal were very happy with the settlement.
But the rather petulant Nasri was not the only player through whom Arsenal could make a profit by selling him on to Manchester C. Gaël Clichy came from Cannes to Arsenal for £250,000 in 2003 and went to Manchester City for £7m in 2011. A welcome profit of £6.75m.
Now two Arsenal players sold to Manchester C, at a profit, might seem a bit of good business, but when we find a third, one begins to wonder. Are Manchester C simply paying Arsenal to be their recruitment department? After all they are not paying much in rent, and Uefa and CAS are making sure that they abide exactly by all the financial fair play rules.
And no, it is not yet over for we have Kolo Touré.
Arsenal bought Kolo from ASEC Mimosas for £150,000 (ie less than one sixth of a million pounds. That was in 2002. Seven years later Manchester City bought the player for £15.85 leaving Arsenal with a profit of £15.7m
Kolo played for Arsenal 225 times in seven seasons, averaging 32 games a season. He slipped down to 20 games a season on average for Manchester City. He was then given (as in transferred on a free) to Liverpool.
And we still haven’t finished. That wonderful (I use the word in its broadest sense) centre forward Emmanuel Adebayor went from Monaco to Arsenal for £7 million in 2006. Arsenal sold him to Mancheseter City in 2009 after he had played 104 games for Arsenal. The fee was £25m
He played 34 games for Manchester City, going on loan to a really mad Real Madrid and then to Tottenham Hots before signing for Tottenham. The fee was £5,76m.
That means Arsenal have made a profit of £46,650,000 out of selling on players to Manchester City. Of course some will decry Arsenal as a “feeder club” but I prefer to think of it as selling players who are past their best at more than they cost.
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