Fair Play To The AST

By Kevin Whitcher

Supporters ownership group continue to hold club to account

Arsenal’s Annual General Meeting takes place at 11.30 today, and three wins since the defeat at Watford have not taken everyone’s eye off the bigger picture of how efficiently the club is geared up to maximize its chances of success. In preparation for some aggressive questions at the meeting, Stan and Josh Kroenke have used their favoured UK media outlet, Jeremy Wilson in The Telegraph to basically state their commitment to the club and its pursuit of success. But talk is cheap, and the sense of drift at the club is unmistakable these days. Everybody knows that Ozil and Sanchez will not be here this time next season, the two superstar buys in 2013 and 2014 that were supposed to signify that the club had turned the corner and could compete with the bigger clubs once again. So I expect the line at the meeting to change to the ‘we make stars, we don’t buy them’ one, with a probably nod towards one game wonder Eddie Nketiah.

Regardless, the Trust have called on shareholders to vote against the re-election to the board of Josh Kroenke and Sir Chip Keswick. It will be a symbolic gesture given Josh’s dad has 67% of the voting rights, but will, in the Trust’s own words “demonstrate dissatisfaction at the current ownership and governance arrangements at the Arsenal Football Club.”

Better still the Trust have a list of pre-submitted questions (and in the past, all pre-submitted questions have been addressed, if not always answered – but the questions make a point nevertheless).

They are as follows –

Question: In May 2013 the Arsenal Supporters' Trust commissioned an independent review of corporate governance at Arsenal. This report, and the failings it identified, have been well-publicised. In particular it identified an ageing board lacking in diversity, without the breadth of skills required to run a modern professional football club. All of the non-executive directors have been in office for far too long and are not regarded as independent under the corporate governance code. There is therefore no independence from the controlling shareholder, no one free of conflict of interest and no one on the board with professional football playing experience. When is the Board going to address these significant corporate governance failings, appoint a number of truly independent non-executive directors capable of challenging the majority shareholder and who will act in the interests of shareholders as a whole?

Question: In a membership survey conducted this month 92% of AST members said that they believed that Alisher Usmanov, who holds a 30% equity stake in Arsenal through Red & White Holdings, should be offered a place on the Arsenal Board? Why has the Board not offered a directorship to Alisher Usmanov?

Question: The AST welcomed the decision to reduce ticket prices this season for the Europa League competition compared to the Champions League pricing. As the report and accounts demonstrate, income from broadcasting continues to surge ahead. Can the Board confirm they remain committed to the position that general admission prices will be frozen for the full period of the existing TV contract and therefore that this will cover next season as well?

Question: Ivan Gazidis' total pay package remained £2.6m this year including a bonus of £919,000. Yet the Club's performance in football performance (falling from 2nd to 5th place - no Champions League) and predicted income - falling by up to£20m on the Club's own estimate. Can the Board please justify this payment and give a more comprehensive answer than to say it was a decision made by the remuneration committee?

Question: The 2016-17 accounts show a £9m (13%) increase in 'other football costs' from £70m to £79m. The explanation given is that USA tour costs, partnership costs, extra security, legend match proceeds and a £1m surplus property provision are behind this increase. The level of increase is unprecedented in the absence of a management fee and more surprising in view of the reduced number of home games last season (including no Emirates Cup). Can the Board explain how it has cost an average of over £2m a year more for the items listed? Surely there must be other factors at work? Please provide a fuller breakdown of the increase.

Question: Arsenal has never had a single owner, and before Stan Kroenke never even a majority owner. The club was run for 125 years on a custodianship model and principles that recognised the value of supporter shareholders. Even Henry Norris deliberately resisted becoming majority owner when he ran the club for over 20 years. Do the club recognise the value of supporter shareholders and do the current board commit to allowing all small shareholders who want to retain shares in a public company to do so regardless of any deals between the two major shareholders or any other parties?

Question: The CEO suggested in 2013 that Arsenal could be similar to Bayern Munich. Has anyone taken a close look at how the decision-making process is made at Bayern, who are a member of an elite group of clubs Arsenal aspire to join, to see what can be learned from their organisational structure and division of key roles, especially regarding their strategy towards playing staff? Previously the Chairman has indicated that all such decisions are left to the manager - is this still the preferred modus operandi for the Arsenal directors?

Question: Does the Board recognise that the appeal of the Premier League is founded on the basis that any team can beat any other team in a one-off match? A redistribution of income that further separates the biggest clubs from the rest will undoubtedly harm competition and the vast majority of fans are against it. Will the Board publicly state Arsenal's commitment to upholding the current equal distribution of overseas TV money?

Question: The problem of there being large numbers of empty seats at the Emirates was greater than ever last year. In the past the principle of home credits to encourage those not using their seats to put them back in the ticket exchange has been acknowledged but no change has occurred. Please can the Club address in more detail the specific issue of home credits and what holds back their implementation - cost?, technology?, policy? - and indicate when and how these obstacles will be overcome?

Question: Can the Club explain why it is facing an unprecedented number of senior players being on contracts in their last or penultimate year? What action is being taken to prevent this happening in the future and are further appointments expected to replace Dick Law?

Question: With the PUMA and Emirates commercial partnerships representing over two thirds of commercial income and described as "mid-term" what do Arsenal intend to do to close the near £100m commercial income differential with Manchester United and substantial shortfall to other leading EPL and European clubs? Chelsea triggered a termination clause to buy out Adidas and more than double its annual income from a new deal with Nike. Would Arsenal consider a similar early termination with PUMA if a substantial uplift could not be re-negotiated?

Question: Arsene Wenger himself admitted that the uncertainty around his contract situation was highly disruptive to the team's end of season performances. What has the Board learnt from the way this was handled and will a decision on the manager's future be taken any earlier than May 2019 in a bid to avoid more confusion?

So, I am looking forward to an eventful meeting, and will do a write up on it tomorrow.

26th October 2017 09:45:57


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.

Moscowgooner  14:20pm 26th Oct 2017

A good set of questions - although I would say 'diversity' is a (fashionable) red herring: Arsenal boards in the '30s, in the late 40s and early '50s and in the early '70s were packed with elderly (straight - I assume) white gents - the difference being that they knew about football. - Post No. 110468

Seven Kings Gooner1  16:25pm 26th Oct 2017

With all due respect to the AST, the one question that should have been asked, and wasn't, was : "Why has the current manager and coaching staff been allowed to remain in position when for the last 8 years the team has not made a an attempt to compete for the top honours in football" It is of course a rhetorical question but it should still have been raised none the less. - Post No. 110469

markymark  17:31pm 26th Oct 2017

Apparently Wengo spends 99% of the time trying to make his fans happy and 1% I presume trying to win a title? God knows how the board can swallow his BS. Anyway here’s to Wengo’s home for the deluded. First residents BBA, Badarse , Leek the Squeak and Jamerson. - Post No. 110472

Paulo75  17:40pm 26th Oct 2017

Hats off to the Arsenal Supporters Trust for their efforts here but unfortunately doomed to failure. Kroenke and his Cronies have absolutely no shame in dishing out the annual platitudes. Just a pity Uncle Sam's exposure to the Arsenal support is limited to such controlled environments. - Post No. 110473

Scruff  17:40pm 26th Oct 2017

Well that meeting just proved the Yank cares only about his self interests and those who must obey him. Thank David Dein . - Post No. 110474

mbg  17:55pm 26th Oct 2017

Fair plat to the AST ? really ? for what ? holding the club to account how ? fancy questions (that are pre submitted) and veil threats to make themselves look good, (that won't be answered properly anyway) and not to much so to keep them in favour with the big wigs for these type of meetings and get togethers, and just enough to keep them in favour with fans as if they doing something like holding them to account. Are they holding the biggest problem at this club to account ? an egoistic old manager wenger, are they f**k, i'd have respect for this group and indeed a lot of the others if they were and we seen progress of it, or singing from the same hymn sheet when the embarrassments and humiliations came/come to force him out, but i'm sure the tea coffee and biscuits and autographs will be nice afterwards though. wenger out. - Post No. 110475

markymark  20:37pm 26th Oct 2017

Dear Sir Chips , Your Lordship Sir, Begging yer pardon Sir but can I say what a fine job you’re doing Sir. If it pleases you Sir . Your most umble Servant Toady BBA.... lick , lick - Post No. 110476

OneBardGooner  21:27pm 26th Oct 2017

These meetings have become so 'Sanitized' I have serious concerns that we the fans will ever be able to wrestle back any kind of say. The club is now run to make money / profits before trophies...and wenger is equally culpable in this as are all members of the board. The only way that self-promoting, despot c.u.n.t wenger is going to leave is in a pine box, the sooner the better as far as I am concerned. And that wig wearing c.u.n.t Kroenke will suck the club dry and use all profits to boost his other ' Franchises' RIP Arsenal F,C. (A Sad Sad day). :o( - Post No. 110477

Arseneknewbest  22:01pm 26th Oct 2017

Tooaw, Goonerron, all the other erstwhile apologists, Stan-K, Ivan the Liar, Sir Chips, Gonnella, Feo, Ozil and the other bottlers, last and least wengo. You're all enemies within that bear responsibility for the collapse of this club. Shame on the lot of you. - Post No. 110478

markymark  8:40am 27th Oct 2017

ToOaW - he loves a bit of Stan , it gets him moist. - Post No. 110479

markymark  9:28am 27th Oct 2017

I would have thought a nice direct question to ask for next years AST is as follows. Directed to Stan or Ivan “Given Your stated aim to achieve titles and greater overall success, why do you persist with a manager who has failed to win a title in the last 12/13/14/15 years ? Does this not undermine your stated desire and risk greater disconnect with the fan base and social media ?” - Post No. 110480

The Man From UNCLE  9:53am 27th Oct 2017

The only thing that will ruffle the boards feathers is a half-empty stadium every other week. Money talks and BS walks. - Post No. 110481

GoonerRon  13:49pm 28th Oct 2017

@ Arseneknewbest - yeah, wanting my club to win games and wanting my sons to grow up loving Arsenal Football Club makes me an enemy within. Jog on. - Post No. 110497

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