This is a blog piece by Gary Jacob from the Times’ supplement The Game. Pretty much sums up the state of affairs at Arsenal
Here are six things that we learnt from a feisty Arsenal annual meeting yesterday
1. Arsenal’s board needs radical overhaul
They are too long in the tooth and are in need of an injection of energy, dynamism, ideas and direction. Four are aged 70 or older, none is female and they have never looked so out of touch with what the fans want as they were at the annual meeting yesterday.
They are like a gentlemen’s dining club, where a crisis is when the port runs out in the boardroom, and one day they might wake up to find that Stan Kroenke has walked out with a large slice of the cake.
Peter Hill-Wood, the chairman, excelled himself with his quip: “Thanks for your support and interest in our affairs.”
Who owns the club? Not him. He made a tidy sum from selling his shares to Kroenke. Later on, Hill-Wood said: “I think we have had enough questions if you don’t mind. One more or we’ll be here all day.”
Actually, the board should have the grace to stay longer. It is the only time they face the fans. The board protect each other. Hill-Wood said that Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive, received a £675,000 bonus for an “extremely good year”. Finishing third, luckily, it seems is good.
2. Stan Kroenke is uncomfortable talking
Stan Kroenke is known as “Silent Stan”, which it has been presumed is because he does not give much away. Yesterday another theory came to mind. He is uncomfortable talking in public. He looked at disgruntled shareholders with almost disbelief and astonishment.
He hadn’t bought the club to give himself grief. Yet he was given the chance to answer questions about his commitment to not take out money from Arsenal and failed. He had an opportunity to seize the microphone and deliver a rousing speech about his ambitions to stir the faithful. He failed. He gained control of the club without speaking and he is not about to change his ways now.
3. There may friction below the surface
It was a game of pass the buck. Gazidis claimed that Arsene Wenger makes the decision on how to spend funds on players, although the manager later said that his job was to deliver a team with the resources he had and he had not complained.
When Kroenke and the Arsenal Supporters Trust quibbled over whether the owner had met the fans, as he had pledged in his takeover document, Wenger was cute enough to say, “Sure let’s meet at the end of the season.” Wenger swiftly got the fans on his, rather than Kroenke’s side. Problem with the offer is that Wenger has not done a meeting with fans since 2010. He was hung out to dry by the board at a shareholder meeting in May 2009, taking the flack full on.
4. Commercial deals, don’t hold your breath
Gazidis is clinging on to his vision that Arsenal will be flushed with cash in two years’ time thanks to new kit and shirt deals. He forgets that Arsenal may not be in the Champions League at that time to maximize their income from sponsors.
5. The Arsenal Supporters Trust found a voice
Any supporters’ trust is often the most recognised body for clubs and as a consequence it is also often accused of being too close to a club. The Arsenal Supporters Trust clearly decided that it needed to sharpen its teeth to appeal to fans by picking holes in the arguments of Kroenke and his board.
It obviously feels that it has nothing to lose, since Kroenke is otherwise paying them lip service only.
6. Cash but no power
Alisher Usmanov has ploughed in about £200 million for his stake of just under 30 per cent but he continues to have no power. His only hope is that Arsenal struggle and the fans turn on the board, for which he probably needs the club to finish outside the top four this season.
Arsenal got out of jail last season, denying him his chance to use the fans for support with a takeover bid.