Ever since the Man. U and Chelsea matches, the big question for all Gooners has resurfaced again. Why aren’t we buying the 2-3 big players we need to cement our place back at the top of the league? More to the point, can we really not afford to compete on transfer fees and wages, or is it stubborn old Arsene still just trying to prove that he can win with kids? Only last Wednesday he talked about Arsenal having to live in a ‘realistic world’. So what is the reality for Arsenal? Does ‘realistic’ mean ‘skint’? I think the answer might be YES.
Digging into Arsenal’s finances is about as exciting as waiting for Rory Delap to dry his balls. Fortunately Robert Peston, BBC Business reporter and long time Gooner, did a lot of the work last summer. Aided by a convenient leak of an investment report, he put some fascinating facts together, including:
1. Arsenal’s earnings (leaving out interest payments etc.) are probably falling, mainly because existing player wages are going up to compensate them for tax changes.
2. Our season tickets are 24% higher than other big four clubs and our other tickets 40% higher. So no more money is coming in from the fans.
3. The new flats development at Highbury isn’t likely to make any money to help pay off the £242m we borrowed for the Emirates.
So whatever money we make is having to go first to existing players to keep their take home pay the same, even though taxes are going up and up. Then we have to pay more for the loan on the Emirates than we planned to. Whatever is left over could be used to buy players and pay their wages. How much could that be? It could be as little as £5m-£10m. Now it makes sense why our big new signings are coming in on frees. When Chamakh arrives, his wages alone will use up quite a bit of that. If we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, even that £5m to £10m could disappear. Now you know why we played the second string against Stoke.
So far from being prudent Arsenal, the board seem to have got us to the point that we are strapped for cash. Emirates or not, we have bitten off more than we can chew, and we are paying for it.
So what can we do?
Uzmanov wanted to issue new shares and bring an extra £150m into the club. It would pay off a fair bit of debt, get the interest payments down and give some breathing space. Even £150m wouldn’t put us back in the big league though, just get the bankers off our backs and let Arsene buy quality. The board don’t like it because it means giving up some control. I think it’s a bit late to worry about that now.
Second option – sell players, starting with Cesc. £40m in the bank and another maybe £5m off the wage bill. Not what we pay higher season ticket prices for than anyone else, but no different from Man. U. selling Ronaldo.
I never thought I’d say this, but I pick Usmanov over selling Cesc. The board have done their best within our proud traditions but this time they’ve blown it and unless we want to start moving with the Evertons and Aston Villas of this world, it’s time we faced up to the state we are in, before it is too late.