A couple of AA stalwarts attended the AST meeting last night and since we didn’t get back until late, this brief résumé will serve to start debate rather than be a detailed deconstruction of the proceedings.
First let me say that the attendees were (at least those who spoke) level headed and articulate – but there was plenty of disagreement all the same. The AST is an effective vehicle for access to the club and we are very lucky that we have a CEO in Ivan Gazidis who gives his time to attend open forums as well as having regular private meetings to discuss particular issues (one is taking place this Friday).
I doubt many other CEO’s of top clubs would be so obliging. For this I have to applaud IG. He does not have an easy job having to juggle the conflicting factions of the business – an absentee owner who will not invest, an entrenched Board in dire need of new blood and a manager who is both brilliant and intransigent.
As far as the meeting itself is concerned, there wasn’t a single point made by the presenters or those who spoke that hasn’t been made many times on here over the last few years.
A lot of discussion early on was over the results of their annual survey. I know some supporters suspect that the AST adopt an anti-Wenger stance but this was dispelled by the response to the question asking whether AW should remain as manager which showed 77% in support of Arsène Wenger.
Amongst the many topics discussed, there were two main points that received general agreement at the meeting but that some on here will probably take issue with, and I would like these to form the basis for today’s discussion.
1. It is ridiculous that the Board refuse to meet with Red and White Holdings. Apparently neither Usmanov or his partner Farhad Bashiri have ever been invited into the Boardroom to discuss there intentions as major shareholders. They have never been invited into the Directors box to watch a game (he is currrently purchasing his third private box) or entertained in any way by the Board. They own nearly 1/3 of the club and yet are completely ostracised and this simply would not happen in any other sphere of business. Some kind of dialogue should take place to see if R&W Holdings can contribute to the success of the club whilst still maintaining a self-sustaining business model.
2. The ownership together with the Board are hiding behind FFP simply because they can, and because self-sustainability has been our business model since since moving to the new stadium.
The meeting was attended by accountants, solicitors and people who understand contract law and the belief is that we could be more aggressive in our approach and still comply with FFP.
It was said that the true impact of FFP (if any), extra income from TV rights and the renegotiation of big sponsorship deals are all about 2 years away and the club basically chooses to take the risk of falling out of the top four rather than raise funds to invest in the squad.
The club runs at about a £15m loss annually and this deficit is made up by the profit from the sale of players. There is also a buffer of £30-40m from the sale of players in recent years that is held back in case the club fail to qualify for the CL one season. The feeling was that this money could be invested in the team as the club are likely to be about £70m better off come the 2014/15 season.
FFP is a UEFA policy of some 72 pages and much is left to interpretation and could be easy prey to top lawyers but it does seem already to be affecting the behaviour of clubs although oddly it is the smaller clubs that are likely to be affected the most. Man City were very astute in doing big player deals before the start of the system and continue to exploit it intelligently. Arsenal in contrast appear to be living in the hope that it actually achieves its goals – the general view at the meeting was sceptical that this would actually be the case.
Written by Rasp