Arsenal’s serious financial woes and the media’s demand for more spending

By Tony Attwood

In the theory of cognitive dissonance, if we try and hold two contradictory beliefs or ideas at the same time we feel discomfort.  So we  attempt to reduce this dissonance by ignoring one of those ideas, even if it is obviously true.

Thus journalists and some bloggers overcome this by removing one of the beliefs and denying it, until suddenly the truth of the belief wells up out of the blue at which time they ignore all they have said in the past, and simply adopt a new stance while blaming someone else.

So, to take the current situation, the media is full of all the players Arsenal are going to sign, such as 

  • Arsenal urged to beat Man Utd to Grealish transfer amid Odegaard uncertainty (Daily Star)
  • Ian Wright: Arsenal have to find a way to sign 22-year-old (The Sport Review)
  • Liverpool can get Man Utd Cristiano Ronaldo transfer revenge and face £68m Arsenal battle (Express)
  • Arsenal eyeing move for 28-year-old attacker after his heroics against Tottenham Hotspur (Sportslens)
  • Arsenal Must Find A Way To Keep On-Loan Martin Odegaard Beyond The Summer (Forbes)

All these appeared in the last couple of hours before I wrote this.

Now where the cognitive dissonance comes in, is with the fact that Arsenal lost £47.8m in the year to May 2020.  It will of course be a long time before we get the figures for the current financial year – but they are going to look pretty gloomy too, and will mean three years in a row of making significant losses (it was £27.1m in the previous tax year).  The last time before that in which we made a loss was 2002.  Those profits made under Mr Wenger funded the current Arsenal stadium.

Arsenal have already been cutting costs – getting rid of staff all over the place and cutting players’ salaries.   And there will be a slight uplift in the next financial report (for the year to 31 May 2021) which included winning the FA Cup.

Of course there is money coming in from the Europa League where, according to the Swiss Ramble twitter feed Arsenal are the highest ranked club in terms of payouts.   However although that sounds good it actually just means (again taking estimated figures from Swiss Ramble) €3.4m plus €12m from the TV income.

What’s worse is that when football was stopped totally by the UK government, a rebate was agreed with the TV companies for last season – and this rebate is being paid over the next five seasons, reducing Arsenal’s income by another £1m a year.

At which point we come back to cognitive dissonance.  Those bullet point stories above relating to possible Arsenal transfers don’t include any recognition of the fact that Arsenal is now haemorrhaging money, and will continue to do so for at least another financial year, and all the while having an owner who is known for making a profit out of his clubs, not putting money into them.

Worse, during some of this period Arsenal has thrown away a considerable sum by keeping two players on the books while not even registering them in the “25” player lists.

And it has another problem.  As a season ticket holder I pay for my seat before the start of each season.  But last season Arsenal did not give me all the games I had paid for.  So as a result they owed me money for that.  Then for this season Arsenal announced that they would not be taking money from season ticket holders accounts until the situation was clarified.  

So their income has been cut dramatically even before we think of the profit they have lost from each match in terms of catering and other earnings.

The notion that Arsenal, with an owner who bought the club in order to make a profit, and which is now making huge losses, and which is looking towards a season with no European football, will go out and spend another massive amount of money on transfers, seems unlikely to me.

Of course Mr Arteta can argue that he needs more players if Arsenal is to get back into Europe, but this is where his problem arises.   The situation with Ozil at one extreme and Martinelli at the other, shows that he is capable of simply not playing players for whatever reason.  If that’s how he’s been in the past, who is to say what he’ll do in the future?

Obviously the media will continue to talk up transfers because that’s all they know how to do, but unless we get a new owner, I am not sure these transfers will happen. And the media will love that because they will blame Arsenal for being too slow and missing their chances, when in fact there was no chance of Arsenal making any transfers anyway.

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