The circle of football

Morning all,

no Chamakh, no West Ham win. Simple as that. Well, it’s nearly as simple as all the West Ham players who allowed Cheetah time and space and the luxury of shooting with his left foot … all the goddam time. What’s wrong with them? Why would they do that? Were they thinking ‘Ahh, what’s the worst that could happen?’

As I said last night on Twitter, if I were the West Ham manager I would have executed my defence for the first goal they let him score. As for the second, I’d have brought them back to life, then killed them again in front of their children. Then killed the children too. Nits make lice and all that. It means that Sunday’s game takes on even more importance. We can’t go above them, but we can haul them back a bit. We simply can’t allow them to get any further ahead. Anyway, more on that as the weekend nears.

Yesterday saw Arsenal release their financial results. And they were good. Or bad, depending. Here’s the thing about football blogging these days – although I suspect this is a very Arsenal blog-centric issue – it’s not just about football any more. You have to be a financial expert, ready and able to comment on the workings of sums of money that are ludicrously large and complicated in size. Analysis of what’s coming in and what’s going about is a necessity, as is the need to be a marketing doyen, well versed in doings of the commercial world.

I can’t claim to be any of those things. To me the financial results aren’t in any way remarkable or that different from years past. We’ve made a profit, we’ve got cash in the bank, the profit is boosted by player sales, we’ve got cash in the bank, the match day revenue figure is a bit worrying, and we’ve got cash in the bank. In general it looks pretty healthy. Obviously the fact that match day revenue has fallen is a bit of a worry, but even though we’re seeing a lot of empty seats these days, the tickets are being sold.

I’d worry more if this were a trend that continues and it might well be. Advancing in the Champions League gives you another pay day or two, and more lucrative ones the further you go. Another home round in the FA Cup would add to that too, but in general that’s an issue that can be solved in one way only: having a more successful team. Ticket prices have been frozen for the season ahead, if there’s money invested in the team and it improves, perhaps folk will feel like they’re getting better value for their money, but again this is all dependent on what happens on the pitch.

The wage bill is rising, but I don’t think that’s a problem unique to Arsenal in any way. You can look at the squad we have and see an immediate saving of £10m+ per year when Arshavin, Squillaci, Fabianski and, Bendtner are moved on. Add Chamakh and Park, and any other summer departures, there’s another few million off the bill. But even if you have to pay that money out again because you’ve signed new players, at least it’s a better use of the resources. I’m not arsed getting into the nuts and bolts of our wage bill, we’ve been there and worn the t-shirt, but there’s no doubt there’s been ‘wastage’, and hopefully that’s lessened this summer.

There’s the issue of our commercial income, and in the statement PHW says:

In the second half of the year Commercial revenues will increase significantly as we will start to account for the extended partnership contract with Emirates; revenues from the £150 million contract extension will be combined with the remaining revenues from the original contract and spread evenly over the revised contract term.

There’s also a new kit deal imminent which will boost that income and while I’ve read plenty of people stick the knife into the commercial team, surely we need to step back and look at the job they have. I see comparisons with Manchester United and the plethora of sponsors they have for every little thing. They’ve got an official toilet paper and an official corn based snack in the Phnom Penh province of Cambodia. And why? Firstly, because they have a well developed commercial team who have been at this for years, but secondly because they’re successful.

Brands want to be associated with success. Nobody wants to be the official corn based snack of a team which finished in third place on the final day of the season because the West Brom goalkeeper had a nightmare. You just can’t compare our commercial potential with that of Manchester United, in my opinion. Do we do better than other teams who fight for the top four each season? That’s where the level is right now and where the comparison should be made.

Which isn’t to say things can’t improve or that we don’t have more commercial potential than other sides. Clearly we do. We’re a well known club in the biggest city with a great stadium and the days when we won the league and wowed people with our football aren’t too far in the past. But as for right now? That’s a difficult sell for me. We have the Emirates thing done and dusted, there’ll be more money available through the new kit deal, and that money, along with anything else we have spare must be invested in the playing squad.

Competing for, and winning, trophies gathers its own momentum. Companies will want to be associated with a club that looks ambitious, that excites people on the pitch, and at that point we’ll see the true measure of the commercial team. Make hay while the sun shines, as the saying goes. Difficult to do when the field is all damp and splodgy, like it is right now.

And despite the need to look at finances and sponsorships and marketing, the bottom line is that all these things are dependent on what happens on the pitch. That dictates everything else. You can argue till the cows come home about our cash reserves and player trading and TV money and sponsors for this that and the other, but the very simple fact is if Arsenal were a better football team then everything else would be better too. We’ve now got the structure to ensure that’s the case, when a few years ago we weren’t as well set up for it, and for me that’s the very clear message I get from these results: make the football team better above all else.

Till tomorrow.

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