The fallacy of the self-deluding model

By Ian Henry

Good news! Season Ticket prices could go down…

I came to the conclusion that Arsenal would not win anything again under Arsene Wenger at the end of the 4-4 draw at home to Spurs a few seasons back (for those with short memories that was when we went into injury time winning 4-2). Nothing that has happened since then has changed my mind. And with every ridiculous result for a team in Arsenal’s position, defeat at Bradford, defeat at home to Blackburn, losing 8-2 at ManU and many more besides, I can only “marvel” at the manager’s ability to convince the board and so many fans that he is still the right man for the job. He isn’t and not even a miraculous winning of the Champions League would convince me he should remain as manager.

But that’s not what I want to address here; rather I want to look at the self-sustaining model, or what I now regard as the self-deluding model and what happens when a key assumption underpinning the model, namely Champions League revenue, is under threat. In a nutshell, the self-sustaining model is for the club to generate the income it needs to buy and play the players the manager wants without going into debt (except to build the stadium) and certainly without the owners dipping into their pockets to fund the club in some way.

By the way, have a think about that last statement: the owners do not invest a single penny in the club themselves. They never have done, not the current owners, nor the previous owners. Worrying though that is, the real problem with the self-sustaining model is where it is leading the club, down a path which seems to be leading to ever faster decline.

The club is now embroiled in the annual chase for 4th spot, although the decline and fractious nature of Chelsea these days actually means there are 4 teams chasing 3rd and 4th spots; and the longer Everton and Chelsea stay in the FA Cup and Spurs and Chelsea remain in the Europa league, the more disrupted their league campaigns will become, which be to OGL’s advantage.

What happens though if we finish outside the hallowed halls of 4th place? Personally I don’t mind at all. After all, what exactly is the point of being in the Champions League? The team is so far off being able to mount a credible challenge, never mind win it, that I really can’t understand the attraction of the Champions League, at least from a football perspective. Of course, financially it matters, I know that, but who can honestly say they are excited or even really interested in the group games these days?

Because of our record of having been in the CL since time began, we are seeded, so the chances of getting a big team in our group are minimal to say the least. Let’s be honest, outside of Real Madrid, Barcelona, the two Milan clubs, Juventus and perhaps Bayern Munich, how many European teams send a tingle down your spine and really make to want to be at the game. Sparta Prague? Cluj? AEK Athens? Not me.

Getting through the group stage is, by and large, guaranteed (even Arsenal have managed not to fail here which is something of a miracle I guess), but then what: we come up against a team which is game savvy and knows how to win a two-legged tie. Milan last year, Barca the year before, Bayern this year. The result – almost certainly defeat, followed by the annual battle to qualify for next year's round of boring group games and the hope that we might get an exciting draw in the knock-out stages. For what?

Arsenal is not set up, in terms of players, on-pitch strategy or any other aspect, to win the CL. So why enter it? Surely the aim has to be to try to win any competition the club enters? If not, what is the point?

Defeat by Bayern may not be a formality, but it is what most, if not all, realistic Arsenal fans (most of who have never worked a day in football, but who have spent a lifetime watching it and learnt a thing or two about the game) expect to happen. Let us assume that this defeat is followed in a few months’ time by finishing 5th or 6th.

Well, the first thing that will mean is that we will be due a reduction on our season tickets for next season as we will have only had 6 of the 7 cup credits in our season ticket price for this season, so season ticket revenue will be down by 1/26th of what it was last season. But worse than that for the bean counters in Highbury House (or at Kroenke Towers across the pond) would be finishing 6th. Sixth place could well mean no Europa league spot, and unless the FA Cup finalists have both qualified for Europe by some other means, sixth place will indeed mean no European football next season.

What then for season ticket prices; there will be NO guaranteed cup football at home, so including seven home cup games within the season ticket price will be a tricky job for the sales team. I raised this idea with our editor a few weeks back and he thought the club would try and include the League Cup in the season ticket price – sorry, kids and those thousands of red members who enjoy those nights, if our editor is right about that, you will lose your chance to see the Arsenal for a tenner. Actually I don’t think (or rather I hope) the club can be so stupid (then again never say never in football) to do such a thing, but stranger things have happened. Assume, however, for the moment that the club does the sensible thing and does not try to include the League Cup in the season ticket prices, with NO guaranteed home cup games, what will the club do: hold season ticket prices and offer a refund next season if we don’t have any FA Cup games at home? Remember though the maximum number of home FA Cup games you could have is four (yes I know, unlikely in the extreme) and season ticket prices are based on seven cup games, so that won’t wash.

In reality, sixth place will mean season ticket prices will have to be cut. 7 cup credits, plus a refund from one unused this season would mean at cut of 8/26ths, or almost 31%. Cut the match day revenue by over 30% and this will mean one thing and one thing only, player sales. The revenue will have to be made up for the club to be self-sustaining if there is a match day revenue cut of 30%. And so it will go on: the best players will be sold, although at some point, if things continue, player quality will have declined so much that there won’t be many “best” players to be sold to fill the revenue gap. And all the while, such great purchases as Squillaci, Park, Santos, Gervinho and others will be at the club (or shunted off on a subsidised loan) consuming cash like there is no tomorrow. You could almost pick an entire 11 of players of who have barely played this year or who are out on a subsidised loan: their collective wages will amount to at least £500k a week, or a mere £26 million a year. Yes people, Fabianski, Squillaci, Djourou, Santos, Arshavin, Bendtner, Denilson, Chamakh and Park, plus the hapless Gervinho and the multitude of home-grown players on the payroll who will never make it at Arsenal are costing at least £26 million a year and quite probably a lot more.

Self-sustaining business model? As Jim Royle might say – self-sustaining model , my arse! Meanwhile in Highbury House, Mr Gazidis and his team will light a candle at the altar to self-sustaining business models and pray that some contaminated horsemeat finds its way into the player restaurants at Stamford Bridge, Goodison Park and that place along the Seven Sisters Road so the old lasagne jokes can come out to play come May.

18th February 2013 09:00:00


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Butcher boy  7:51am 18th Feb 2013

How many would re new a season ticket for the same price if its Europa instead of CL, not me, - Post No. 34654

Tony Evans  8:27am 18th Feb 2013

Good article, Ian. Although I would love to see Arsenal win the CL, with the team and manager we have now, realistically, it is not going to happen. What is the point of this hallowed top four finish for us? It keeps Wenger in his cosy well paid job, we don't buy any top players that should be attracted by CL football and it keeps season ticket prices sky high. As you say the CL group stages are boring in the extreme and then we get knocked out and so it goes on - but not this year maybe? - Post No. 34655

bunch  8:33am 18th Feb 2013

I think you hit the nail on the head for me with your thoughts on CL football. But I wouldn't be surprised if the club try and screw-over us season ticket holders. If we are in the Europa I bet they try and say "it's European football = same price" which would be a complete travesty when the stubborn old Frenchman is getting his £7m a year for presiding over decline. - Post No. 34657

N4  9:20am 18th Feb 2013

Very good article and nicely put of the assumptions. In a way I hope it goes in the extreme way you have explained as that will be the only way to get rid of the yank that is just here for the money!!! I don't believe in Arsenal anymore and it's only a matter of time that I will stop bothering about them!!! - Post No. 34673

Carlos  9:50am 18th Feb 2013

Really well-informed and thought out article; expect to see a rewrite of this in the written press soon. The future isn't looking great - Post No. 34682

Rocky RIP  9:59am 18th Feb 2013

To quote somebody more pertinent than me - 'Let's hope that Tuesday night's Champions League game doesn't distract us from our main objective of qualifying for the Champions League.' - Post No. 34684

Ron  10:28am 18th Feb 2013

Agree with all that you say on the CL, but the truth is that football is about money these days, money, money and more money. Theres no room for sentiment, romance or glory anymore and hence, whilst many of us detest it, the CL entry is more important than winning domestic Cups to bean counters who run football Clubs, especially foreign bean counters who've no real interst in football. Its very sad but thats reality and our only responses are to accept it or shuffle off and make football just a tiny part of our lives to the point of it being more of a passing intrest as opposed to remaining as committed supporters week in week out. The latter has been my route to acceptance and its not a pleasant feeling.Im sure, well, i actually know many others have done the same. - Post No. 34694

chris dee  11:01am 18th Feb 2013

Your correct Ian Henry,defeat by Bayern Munich is not a formality,but not winning the Champions League is. Our decline started when Gallas burst into tears at the shocking lack of defensive awareness shown by Wenger coached Cliche against Birmingham which was not addressed by the manager.A shameful dereliction of duty.Similar shocking defending has continued in the years since but with far less talented players, so the downward spiral continues. - Post No. 34697

BNG  11:02am 18th Feb 2013

Top article Ian and you're echoing my thoughts on qualification, if we do achieve the trophy of 4th place what then ? It will just be the same as the last 4-5 years making up the numbers and a revenue stream so that OGL can reward his band of 'proven mental strength winners' with improved contracts for habitual failure - Post No. 34698

Highbury Boy  13:12pm 18th Feb 2013

I have had 4 season tickets for 40 years and was standing on the terraces for 20 years before that. If Wenger remains manager we will NOT be renewing. The ambition to win has gone. It's now all about the P&L A/c. The PR Dept will be busy around ST renewal time leaking stories about us being linked to star players and Wenger being given the green light to spend £70m. In fact it's already started. At least for the foreseeable future the only transfer out which will concern me is Jack. As far as I'm concerned the rest can go though it is highly unlikely that many if any will find buyers willing to pay anything like their current wages. If the present regime continues it is impossible to see Jack at Arsenal in 2 years time. The return of Fabregas to his native country,the sale of Henry and others after they had peaked and even the sale of 29 year old VP to "follow his boyhood instincts" can all be excused in some ways but to see a boy who has grown up at Arsenal to become the key player being sold before he has reached his prime will be the ultimate proof ,if any was needed,that we have just become a feeder club which values the bottom line more than trophies. We might just as well have stayed at Highbury. The ambition shown by Fiszman and Dein has been p***ed away. - Post No. 34721

JER  15:21pm 18th Feb 2013

Wenger is at the tipping point and he knows it. If he sticks to his 'I will see out my contract' mantra then the board has to sack him at the end of the season unless by a miracle we win the CL. These are sad times for us Gooners but we just might be on the brink of change for the better if either Wenger or the board do the decent thing. If they don't then they will lose what credibility they have left and the club will sink further into mid table mediocrity. - Post No. 34738

maguiresbridge gooner  15:41pm 18th Feb 2013

Ian i was in club level for that spuds game (courtesy of a friend)and ran into an ex player at one of the bars after the match, i asked him what he thought of that ? he shook his head and replied disgraceful that should never have happened.The sad thing is it still is with the same mistakes being made defensively, and with the keeper situation, among others.Yes we're now in the chase for our annual fourth place trophy and all the riches it brings (not to the fans)what difference does it make ? these riches aren't going to bring us real top top quality players no matter what some people think,real top top quality players that can actually help us win it, it hasn't in the past and that's not likely to change.If it happens and we finish without our hallowed trophy its the europa league for us, what a come down,what a change in fortunes,no more of all that CL dough no more dining at the top table and what a blow for ego's.With the players we've attracted/bought while in the CL imagine the quality we'll attract while out of it.Would we see changes then ? And all these teams we've never heard of and can't pronounce coming to our lovely stadium and the team travelling to god knows where for another meaningless competition (or would it suddenly become important)that lasts forever, would it make any difference to the ticket pricing ? you can just the imagine the spin we'll hear if that were to happen. - Post No. 34742

Red Member  16:15pm 18th Feb 2013

the comment from Highbury Boy just about sums everything up and it is a very depressing post. - Post No. 34743

Jason B  16:39pm 18th Feb 2013

The board isn't going to resign anytime soon so need to concerntrate on putting Wenger under even more pressure to quit.In fact it was the likes of Keith Edelman,David Dein and Ken Friar as well as Wenger who were the chief movers to get us out of Highbury in the first place.Most of the current board wasn't there at the time.I also don't buy into this money saving on season tickets.There is nothing to stop the board from re-considering raising prices to compensate.(It's not set in stone or written in law,is it?)After all the revenues lost from failing to qualifing for the europa league never mind CL will run into tens of millions of pounds.You can't tell me the club won't be affected.So your 'idea' that season tickets would be reduced is far-fetched to say the least. - Post No. 34747

maguiresbridge gooner  18:07pm 18th Feb 2013

Good one Rocky RIP. - Post No. 34754

Dan h  18:32pm 18th Feb 2013

The problem we seem to have as poor players are removed from the wage bill others are added.Yes all the names in the article have been hanging around for years.This summer i believe we say au revoir to club stalwarts AA23,Squllaci & also Fabianski.We unfortunatly have around 10-15 players out on loan none of which will come back & improve us.Most unsellable this is one mans making.Santos,Gervinho & the written off the books already Park £20m in fees let alone wages wasted & no one is allowed to question it?The club should lower prices should we drop out of the CL places they won't no shame.The accounts are being published in a couple of weeks & will turn a profit due to the Song & you know who's sale.Anyone else noticed how the mythical transfer fund has grown from £35m in 2010 to £70m in 2013.The truth is the money is there they won't spend i wait to be proved wrong but OGL & the board work hand in glove on this.Cast your mind back to the summer & Ivan Gazidis 'exciting transfer news' of Giroud fully aware that we were on the verge of agreeing the deal with Utd.Where i will go against the general view if you pay the wages you can attract top players to your club regardless of CL or not.Maybe not keep them long term but hey you can always sell them & we are pretty adept at that! - Post No. 34758

billthered  19:56pm 18th Feb 2013

Nothing to add to what has been written but I wonder if RVP's goals would have taken us into the CL and how much would we lose if not weigh, one up against the other. - Post No. 34772

El Bodgeo  6:54am 19th Feb 2013

We have more chance of beating Bayern Munich, knocking out PSG in the 1/4s, thrashing ManU in the Semis and smashing Barca 5-0 in the Champs League final than seeing a 30% price reduction in the season ticket price for next season! - Post No. 34789

Ian Henry  18:39pm 19th Feb 2013

Bodgeo - the point is without CL or even Europa league football, maintaining season ticket prices would mean an effective 30% price rise which not even Arsenal could think they could swing. It would be amusing to see them try mind you. No European football would have to mean a pro-rata price reduction for the season tickets: anything else would mean a de facto increase. - Post No. 34879

Issue #269 - Out Now!

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16th February 2018

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