Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The dust settles, but the fallout lingers

The dust is beginning to settle on what has been a crazy few days, but the fallout from this will linger for some time. As the weekend approaches, Arsenal Football Club, for whom football is the main point, will be playing some football. Some of the focus will be on that as we entertain Everton at the Emirates.

There are protests planned ahead of the game, fans gathering to express their contempt and disgust at what happened this week, and what the owners attempted to force through for their own ends. I’m sure that #kroenkeout will be trending again in the build-up to the game, which will again demonstrate the depth of feeling but the tangible impact will likely be zero because I don’t expect Stan has social media and even if he did he’d just put his phone down. That’s not to say it shouldn’t happen, just to illustrate that there’s a long road ahead with him, and Josh, and KSE.

Meanwhile, the more public facing elements of the club will be front and centre today. Vinai Venkatesham, the CEO, will attend a fan’s forum event later on. He reportedly spoke to players and staff yesterday, as well as his counterparts at other clubs. As CEO that’s very much his job, but after something like this, it should be Stan or Josh. It won’t be Stan, let’s be be honest, and if Josh – as the one who has assumed responsibility for Arsenal in the last couple of years – genuinely wants to mend fences, he should start this evening. At least in that closed setting there’s a limit to how much anger can be directed his way, and while representatives of fans’ groups will feel as strongly about this as anyone, the format of the these things shouldn’t see it get as testy as a ‘town hall meeting’ open to everyone. I don’t really believe they can ever repair the damage they’ve done, or rebuild any kind of trust, but it will be interesting to see if they even try.

Liverpool’s owner, John Henry, put out a video to say sorry (which smart people in the Arses yesterday compared to this). I’m sure he is sorry … that this backfired, and at least he’s taken the responsibility, but it doesn’t mean his reputation won’t suffer because of what’s happened. Liverpool fans have – rightly in my opinion – been roundly critical of him and FSG for their role in this, and it’s worth remembering that under their ownership they have ended that 30 year wait for a league title win, reached two Champions League finals, and improved massively. That has been no protection from the anger felt by fans though, and rightly so. KSE have no such shield. As much as I love our FA Cup wins, we’re floundering in Premier League terms, and the trajectory since they assumed full control of the club has been obvious.

Regardless of what they say, or what story they try to convince us of, we know the reasons this thing was planned. Over in Spain, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez can’t stop talking. He says of the Super League ‘Maybe we didn’t explain it well enough’, but the problem is we could all see exactly what it was for – as he later laid bare:

Tellingly, he also says, “The founder clubs believed in this project. It is not dead. We will keep working.

“Nobody has yet paid the penalisation fee for leaving. We are almost all still in this, they have not left yet.”

So, as I said yesterday, the initial skirmish might have gone our way, but nobody should expect hard-nosed billionaires, and those in powerful positions driven by financial desperation to just blithely accept defeat. That’s not how it works. Clubs like Man City and Chelsea didn’t need the Super League for the money, they just had to be in it because everyone else was. However, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus etc, are in all the kind of financial peril that makes participation extremely attractive, if not completely necessary.

The owners of these clubs are used to getting what they want. Billionaires are not used to their influence being negated by ordinary people, and they will not take kindly the ‘plebs’ stopping this from happening. Buckle in, because we are in for a ride over the coming months, no doubt about it.

Oh, and don’t forget football. Mikel Arteta meets the press this morning ahead of the Everton game, and will no doubt be roundly quizzed about all this. Again, this is part and parcel of the job of a manager, but he shouldn’t be the first person we hear from in public after what’s happened. In the grand scheme of things the Everton game doesn’t matter that much, the Europa League is far more important, but the last few days will have increased the pressure on every aspect of the club, every single thing will be under the microscope.

What of our next two opponents? Everton were strident in their opposition to the project, so too Villarreal. If you wanted any extra motivation for your players to highlight the misplaced hubris and arrogance of those involved in the Super League, there it is. Arsenal  have been behind Everton all season, and next week we take on a so-called smaller club at the exact same stage of a European competition as us (with our former head coach no less!) – they will be even more keen to take a ‘scalp’.

What too of what it’s done to the players and the team itself? A year ago, before the pandemic even took hold, KSE pushed through pay cuts. They saw the financial damage that was coming, but made a pre-emptive strike. Those cuts were offset by assurances that qualification for the Europa League and Champions League would recoup their losses (so to speak), so how do players react to an idea that would have destroyed those competitions, and probably left KSE in the clear when it came to making up those payments?

If you’re Mikel Arteta, I suppose you can only try and consolidate your squad and remind them of how much there is to play for. A European trophy, a merit-based entry into next season’s Champions League if you win it, and a way to forge a connection/bond between you and the fans that will live a long time. Success does that. I think I might also remind them that there’s a cost to the ownership in that they’ll have to fork out these bonuses. Obviously money is not, and never should be the prime motivation, but every little thing helps. It’s down to them and what they do on the pitch, of course, but what’s happened this week can’t have been healthy for anyone at the club so it’s going to be a challenge.

It’s hard not to think there won’t be more twists and turns around all this. It has also raised very interesting questions about how the collective voice of football fans can be used for the good of the game and beyond, and I hope that is something which continues to develop as time goes on. Let’s leave it there for today though.

LINK DROP

We’ll have all the stories from the press conference over on Arseblog News throughout the morning. There’ll be an Arsecast tomorrow and a preview podcast for Patreon members later on today.

You can join the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust here. Also, please sign this petition to save The Tollington from the exact same kind of people who just tried to foist the Super League on us. They are part of the Arsenal community, let’s rally around and do our bit. And remember, if you want to support fellow Gooners, check out Arsebiz – a directory of business and services owned and run by fellow Arsenal fans.

For now, take it easy.

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