Wednesday, June 19, 2024

‘The Clubs position’

Heeeeeey, what’s happening?!

Not a lot, in truth. The Willian deal has yet to be announced for reasons unknown. Is it because the club want to give it a bit more time for the discontent of last week to blow over? Quite possibly. I know many people have contacted them in order to express their unhappiness with the job losses that were announced, and the manner of the communication we received in that regard. They are all being furnished with a stock response which hasn’t been particularly well received by some of the people I’ve spoken to:

We understand the concerns you have expressed. Arsenal Football Club are doing everything to support our people and the Club during these times of uncertainty.

These proposed changes are ultimately about ensuring we take this great football club forward. We hope the update on our website clarifies the Clubs [sic] position.

Kind Regards.

I always feel like kind or warm regards at the end of an email are the equivalent of a pat on the head, but maybe that’s just me. There was a good discussion about all this on our Discord (you get access if you’re a Patreon member), and I enjoyed the comment by @DTDCGooner which I hope he doesn’t mind me reproducing. We were chatting about how realistic it is to expect Stan Kroenke/KSE to simply cough up money to save the 55 jobs.

The context of it centred around the mental gymnastics we’re been asked to perform as fans to get on board with regular people losing their livelihoods at possibly the worst time since the 2008 crash and – in all likelihood – at the start of the worst global financial situation in modern times. These people HAVE TO GO, that’s the be-all and end-all as far as club is concerned, and yet we’re waiting for our captain to sign a new contract worth so much that two months salary would cover these jobs for a year. We’re waiting for an expensive free signing (I know that sounds like a thing that shouldn’t exist, but it does) from Chelsea to be announced. The spin over Willian’s salary ought to be taken with a large pinch of salt by the way, because with signing on fees and bonuses, you can be sure it’s a lot higher than the £100,000 a week being fed to sections of the media. Just to be clear, it’s not criticism of Willian, it’s about the way it works.

Anyway, here’s the comment:

It bothers me massively that KSE’s position seems to be that they should be allowed to own one of the world’s great football clubs at zero cost, zero friction, and zero risk. With zero expectations that even if they fuck it all up massively at Arsenal that anything should ever be expected of them financially. That seems incredibly wrong to me, and it seems incredibly wrong that we shouldn’t question that dynamic as a fanbase.

Some will say that in restructuring the stadium debt KSE have taken on risk, but that doesn’t really add up. Early in the pandemic there were stories that they had ‘put money into the club’, which never made sense when they almost immediately made the players take a pay cut. Arsenal still has to repay the stadium debt, it is just a different loan now, one with lower interest rates which should free up operational funds. It has helped, but it’s no great risk to the ownership.

What lurks in the back of my mind, however, is that the £750m of debt KSE have taken on board (stadium debt + loan to buy out Alisher Usmanov) could be put on the club at some point, and if you think that wouldn’t happen or Stan wouldn’t do that, then I don’t think you understand the amount of shits he gives about how that would go down. Just to be clear, that’s zero shits. He is on record as praising the Glazers for the way they run Man Utd, who pay huge amounts of interest every year on loans taken out on the club.

Once more, I find myself taken aback at how poorly this whole thing has been communicated. Any well-run organisation will do their utmost to present a difficult message in the best way possible. If Arsenal had told us that jobs were being lost as part of an internal review into streamlining at a difficult time, you could understand it even if you didn’t like it. Instead they told us these jobs had to go so we could keep investing in the team. That’s a flat-out lie. It doesn’t make sense.

If Arsenal had told us that a comprehensive audit of our scouting network meant things were going to be done differently, you could shelve some of your concerns about the way our scouting network in the UK and Europe was effectively dismantled overnight. They told us nothing. Silence can be golden sometimes, but sometimes it’s the worst possible thing.

I think everyone understands these are difficult times, extraordinary circumstances, and like many football clubs we face some unprecedented challenges. If that had been at the core of the messaging, instead of a blatant, obvious, and insulting untruth, there wouldn’t be the anger or disenfranchisement that many fans feel. Not everyone, I get that, but enough to at least provoke some kind of internal thinking about how all this was handled. We don’t need to know every tiny detail of every aspect of the club, but surely there’s some requirement to keep fans up to date with what your plans are. In over a year, we’ve barely heard from Edu – a deliberate decision made by Head of Football Raul Sanllehi – but as Technical Director, providing even broad strokes about what we want to do and how we want to do it would go a long way.

Later this week – perhaps even today – we might get word of Willian’s arrival, of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s new contract, and people will be happy about those things – especially the latter. The increasing amounts of cognitive dissonance required to be a football fan these days is something everyone has to reckon with in their own way. What I would say is that it’s important to separate the club itself from the owners or even the executives that run it. Criticism of the latter isn’t criticism of the former, and it generally comes from a place of protection. We should care about the institution, and we should definitely care deeply when people and their behaviour reflects badly on it and damages its reputation.

Supporters are quick to find fault with a player for all kinds of reasons. From performance levels, to off-field indiscretions. From how much they earn, to expressing a desire to leave or running down a contract. It doesn’t take much to be viewed as someone who has disrespected the club, the badge, the shirt. They didn’t remember who they were, what they were, and who they represented.

Same goes for those upstairs.

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