Exploited gooners – the final fanshare straw? – written by charybdis1966

August 20, 2010

Written by charybdis1966

As the transfer window nears its end and we all sit and fret about who will be sauntering through the “in” door to supplement our rapidly diminishing squad are we unique in thinking we suffer especially during this time of the year?
Our transfers seem to be such protracted and painful transactions compared to other clubs, or so it seems to your humble scribe, as well as a significant proportion of the Gooner fan base at large.

Maybe it just seems this way because we cannot be objective when we look at our own transfers however the deciding factor in a majority of our transfers appears to be a relatively minor percentage of the transfer fee, as seems to be the case currently with Schwarzer. Of course a number of us will, and perhaps rightly so, say that we will never know the detail of the negotiations, yet it appears to have been the case so often in the past and continues to be so however our intransigence could well end up being self defeating if the gaping holes in our squad are not addressed.

Putting the idiosyncrasies of this case aside it’s palpably obvious that our buying policy has been to get what we want as cheap as possible to the detriment of assimilating new squad members into the squad in a timely fashion or when they are most needed. There’ll be few detractors to the argument that had we acquired Chamakh in January this year we would not have resorted to the lunacy of playing our Meerkat up front, largely on his own.

Hindsight is of course priceless, yet we can only wonder what would have happened to our final league position if our goals hadn’t dried up in the last third of the season if our new forward had arrived earlier.

The inconsistency of our valuation of players viz-a-viz our transfer policy is demonstrated by our sale of Toure/Greedybayor and our current attempt to buy Schwarzer – we overvalue as sellers and undervalue as buyers.

This seems to be prima facie evidence of the correct approach in a buyers/sellers market however if you continue to do this other players in the market, in this case other football clubs with players to buy and sell, will look upon us as skin flints and not just as tough negotiators but ones to be avoided in future.

It can be argued that during the period of financial frugality that has just finished, according to the “We are no long hampered in our spending” messages that come from the club and our manager, it was necessary to adopt this approach but does there seem to be any change this time round?

We were told we would buy early or very later, but how clever is the buying late strategy? What happens is the rest of the selling clubs know we are desperate for replacements in key positions, goal keeper, centre backs and possibly (thanks to our umpteenth injury) back-up defensive midfielder and therefore we can be held to ransom. Also the selling club won’t have time to get a replacement for a squad member who will normally not be surplus to requirements, unless he is part of the Middle Eastland’s exodus or the Real Madrid fire sale of last season’s now out of fashion galacticos, as the Specious one seeks to rebuild the team in his own glorious image.

So the belief arises amongst the disenchanted gooners that we scrimp and quibble about our buying prices and hold out for higher fees when we sell to the detriment of the squad’s integrity and ability to compete meaningfully.

These same fans feel further alienated by the fact that our ticket prices are amongst the highest in the Premier League but very little of that seems to go into investment in the on-field side of the club’s activities and I have to admit to feeling some sympathy to that view.

There is a perception that the club will use every avenue to exploit their fans loyalty by schemes such as having a plaque on a chair or on a paving slab outside the Armoury – fleecing the fans is what I’d call it. Does every club do this? Yes, to an extent but that doesn’t mean the Club can expect the fan base to continually dig deeper into their pockets and proceed with an unseemly haste to pay off the stadium debt early. I don’t propose to delve into the financial ramifications of the Highbury Square development, the “Mortgage” taken out for the stadium and all the other factors that have combined to give the impression to me that reducing and ultimately eliminating debt from our balance sheet is being given a higher priority than it should.

Why should this be the case? Perhaps because a company free of debt is going to be attractive to an investor and a club like Arsenal will, because of its fan base, in the short to medium term have healthy “revenue streams” as Gazidis is so keen to remind us. So are we being fattened up as a club like a turkey for Christmas for a wealthy investor to acquire and gain a return from? In the case of the Manks the Glazers method of gaining such a return was to put new debt on the club to fund their other investments(while drawing exorbitant remuneration for little in the way of executive duties, allegedly) while the ‘dippers Septic owners are holding out for a substantial profit from a new owner before they sell.

And who will have helped our club become so attractive for a predatory takeover?

Well you, the fans.

While Gazidis has no doubt achieved a number of positive things for the club he brings the Septics unique marketing know-how on how to exploit a brand and so his hand is no doubt behind the plaque on seats, named paving slabs and now the fan share idea. While it can be argued that all clubs offer similar services for me this is another attempt to extract more cash from a fan base with the not only the factually correct promise of “owning part of the club” you support, but the false claim that you can have an influence. In any commercial situation minority shareholders are pretty much ignored so someone who owns 1/100th of an ordinary share, as the Arsenal fanshare offers, will have an infinitesimal ability to make any difference to what the Kroenke’s, the Usmanovs or the Bracewell Smiths of the Arsenal world want to do with the club.

This is where the normal rules of business can’t apply – if this were a commercial situation we would have walked away from Arsenal a long time ago as they simply have not (in my humble opinion) given us value for money. However there is a unique “Brand loyalty” which ties all of us football fans, glory hunters aside, to our chosen team and it’s this important factor that has allowed Arsenal to become the cash rich, take-over friendly footballing beast that it now is.
While Club level and the Diamond club give healthy match day returns all will be rosy for the much sought after “Income streams” but continued failure on the pitch could mean the successful business types who populate them will no longer want to be associated with a team that consistently fails to produce success, and by “success” read “trophies.”

This transfer window was supposed to be different in terms of our ability to buy the necessary quality, and maybe convince our home sick, though honourable, captain that our manager is serious in his ambition for the club. The wider implications are that this could mean disillusionment amongst wider sections of the fan base may accelerate.

And while there remains eleven more days for this “ambition” to be demonstrated to me sufficiently for me to invest in the match day experience the signs are not encouraging.

I’ll always be a gooner but the economic reality we live in now means that failure in the transfer window this time will relegate me back to the ranks of the armchair fan as I can no longer justify the cost of the match day experience.