A relative period without silverware has got Arsenal fans wondering whether its profits first, trophies later for the club as discussed by a gooner.
By Arnold Njue
Football is a funny old game. People say that all the talking should be done on the pitch. Well think again. I have been an Arsenal fan hitherto the Wenger era up until now. I have scratched my head to come up with observations as to why this team is failing
PART ONE: THE GENESIS OF CLUB POLITICS
In 1983, a certain David Dein bought 16.6% holding of Arsenal Football Club and was made the Vice Chairman as a result. The then Chairman Peter Hill Wood called him crazy for his investment in the club. David Dein first met Arsene Wenger in 1988 in London. Slowly but surely, they cultivated a close friendship that lasts to date. Dein built up his shareholding and owned up to 42% of AFC in 1991. Later in 1996 David Dein used his influence to appoint little known Frenchman and good friend Arsene Wenger as manager of the club, after similar attempts failed in 1995.
During his tenure at Arsenal, Dein was in charge of all major football matters. He took a role in the transfer of players and contract negotiations where he was able to use his extensive networks and contacts to get players and convince them to join Arsenal.
In April 2007, David Dein left the Arsenal board, acrimoniously after falling out with the rest of the board over a possible takeover of Arsenal by an external benefactor seeking to invest in the club. Lady Nina Bracewell, joined with the other board members, her husband’s cousins, as well as the Danny Fiszman and the chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, in resisting a take-over by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, which was believed to have the support of Dein.
Later during that year, David Dein sold what was left of his shares to Red Holdings, an investment company owned by the Russian Usmanov and Fahard Moshiri.
Dein’s exit was met with dismay by ex-players and the dressing room, with Thierry Henry leaving soon after and Arsene only staying after Dein convinced him against leaving the club. Slowly began a downward spiral that infiltrated the team and a couple of seasons without silverware would now turn to a full scale trophy drought.
David Dein was the only board member who was a football man; the one administrator at the club who would demand results on the pitch to match the results off it. He truly cared about the club and was the one person who kept Arsene Wenger in check. He would frequently visit the dressing room to encourage the players before and after games .The players loved him and he was like a father figure to them. The fact that his son Darren was Thierry Henry’s best man at his wedding says it all about his relationship with the players.
I cannot overstate how Dein’s departure left Arsene Wenger with a carte blanche to do as he pleases with the team as long as the revenue stream is healthy. In one unplanned for move, Arsene became the untouchable one. The rest of the board members were not football fans but business minded people whose main interest in the club was to make money for their investment. So long as the club was making money, Arsene Knew he had no one to answer to. Qualification for the UEFA Champions League (which Wenger would guarantee) would ensure sufficient annual returns for the club and became the de facto measure for success. That he would ensure such benchmarks without spending much on player recruitment made him indispensible to the board. With all he has done for the club and achieved at Arsenal, it goes without saying that Wenger became bigger and is still bigger than the club.
After deciding they will not sell shares of the club to any “non member” in April 2009, the Arsenal board would reverse this decision in April 2011 when American Stan Kroenke bought out several major shareholders of the club. Kroenke acquired the shares of Lady Nina Bracewell (15.9%), as well as Danny Fiszmann (16.11%) and other directors of the board. This after they had denied Alisher Usmanov the chance to buy the shares as he was not “one of them” despite him bidding for the shares for a higher price much earlier than Kroenke.
The current shareholding of our beloved club is thus as follows:
Stan Kroenke- 66.96% – Appointed Non executive Director after some initial resistance.
Red Holdings PLC (Alisher Usmanov & Farhad Moshiri)-29.9%.
The shares they have were sold to them by their close associate David Dein.
The remaining 3.14% is held byformer players and three shares by the Arsenal Supporters trust.
This is how the Board operates to vest their interests after frustrating David Dein.
The Board have a different agenda to the fans and the best players at the club.The players can move on, but we the fans have no choice, so we suffer at the of whims of arrogant directors and manager, all answerable to no one .
Now that we have a background on the board room politics, indulge me further in the second and final part of this series as we look at what’s wrong with the Le Arsenal; Le professor!