Monday, 27 September 2010

Arsenal’s finance’s – a cleverly run club or doomed to not win?

So Arsenal fans finally have something to celebrate, they have again announced a healthy pre tax profit and, rightfully so, are beaming with pride at this announcement. In this modern era of reckless spending, debt fuelled take over’s and buy now pay later climate it’s good to see a top premiership club still running smoothly and living within their means.

However once the dust has settled and certain sections of the Gunners faithful have stopped sneering at other clubs who operate with stupid levels of debt and lose money each year the simple fact is that there is no trophy for a well run club. Whilst Arsenal should be commended for their approach to financial management the fact is they haven’t won a trophy since 2005 and, despite their good start to the season, probably won’t see this drought end any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see Arsenal holding the title aloft so other clubs realise that maybe playing Russian roulette with the future of your club isn’t the way to do things, but it doesn’t really seem like it’s going to happen any time soon. Ivan Gazidis sad when the figures were released that ‘standing still is not an option for this club’ but isn’t that what they are doing? Moving forward would be winning a trophy even if it is something like the Carling Cup and it seems like Wenger might have started to realise this by playing a much stronger team against Spurs than people were anticipating, although as this is a local derby that might be a motivation behind it, but come the end of the season when one of Man Utd or Chelsea are lifting the title will the comfort of ‘we’ve got money’ really be enough for Arsenal fans?

There has been much debate over Arsenal’s transfer policy, is Wenger just refusing to spend money or is there no money available? Has the Highbury flats project handcuffed what the club can spend? Clearly these questions have been answered today, not only does Wenger have funds to spend but the flats have effectively paid themselves off, the debt now being wiped from the clubs books (I believe the outstanding debt is linked to building the stadium) but this begs the question – why oh why hasn’t Wenger spent? It’s been clear for the last few years were Arsenal need strengthening and yet nothing is done to improve this, a new keeper for example should be a priority as well as a ball winning midfielder and a striker to reinforce the often injured front line, and come the end of the season these are the same questions Arsenal fans will be asking.

Whilst the clued up fans that understand these issues will happily say they are content with the overall running of the club the majority of fans who aren’t so clued up will point to these figures as being further proof that Wenger’s policy clearly isn’t working because they aren’t winning. Whilst Hill-Wood, Gazidis & Wenger can sit on their piles of cash laughing at other clubs in demise (Liverpool spring to mind) your average fan that shells out money every week to watch the club live, or even the arm chair fans, will be pointing to Man Utd & Chelsea asking why they aren’t winning trophies. Whilst it’s all well and good to point to Liverpool & Man Utd and laugh at their debts and financial problems the fact is that these clubs will be bought by a rich backer and they won’t go in to total melt down. Liverpool’s problems stem from the fact that the current owners want far too much for the club and the moment RBS take control and sell it at a knockdown price multi millionaires and billionaires will be queuing at the door to buy the club. The same can be said for Man Utd, whilst they aren’t at breaking point at the moment if (or when) the day comes that the Glazers have to sell up there won’t be a shortage of buyers for them because, If run properly, Man Utd & Liverpool could make a profit every year like Arsenal do and that is what will attract people to them.

The Fabregas saga this summer is another interesting conundrum, two clubs at opposite ends of the financial spectrum – Arsenal with well run finances but winning nothing and Barcelona winning trophies but having to take out a £160m loan to sort out their finances this summer. Which is going to appeal to Fabregas more? If Barca win the league and European cup this season as I think they will and Arsenal finish with a positive balance sheet but in 3rd is that going to be enough to convince him to stay? And if Fabregas does go what will happen, will Wenger spend the money buying another world class replacement or will he rely on youngsters as he has done before when players have left? And if he does end up going back to his youth first policy will that not put Arsenal back to square one again?

Now would have seemed like the right time for Wenger to splash the cash a bit, clearly with the club having this much money he could have gone out and bought a top player in one of the positions that needs strengthening and the club still would have made a profit but instead he chose to stick with players that don’t seem to be up to the level that is required. With Stan Kroenke & Alisher Usmanov waiting in the wings it’s not like Arsenal will be short of financial backers and people worth a lot of money ready to buy the club and whilst fans can say ‘we don’t want a sugar daddy, we want to support ourselves’ wouldn’t you rather have an owner that can dip in to his pockets and fund that little extra than miss out on a player because you get out bid by a club like Man City? People can moan all they want about City having all this money but the fact is the majority of fans would love their club to have that kind of owner. If Chelsea manages to become self sustaining as they plan on doing then the years they spent loads of money and effectively bought the titles will be worth it as they have silverware and don’t end up in serious trouble.

Arsenal should be commended for being a well organised and well run club in this time of financial chaos but is it enough to keep players and fans happy? Only time will tell but I worry the answer will be no, and that in turn will present the eventual question – is being a well run club enough when silverware seems to be what counts most these days?

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