Arsenal: England's Traditional Bearer at Cross Roads

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Arsenal: England's Traditional Bearer at Cross Roads
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Arsenal were founded in 1886 and were the first Southern club to join the Football League, in 1893. This is a club that prides itself in its tradition and longevity in the professional ranks of football.

Arsenal have a large fanbase, who hold a string of long-standing rivalries with several other clubs; the most notable of these is with neighbours Spurs, with whom they regularly contest the North London derby. Arsenal are the third richest club in the world (valued at over $1.200 billion as of 2009).

The team has for several seasons now fighting off the label of the "little big man/team," that is to say they are big yet not big enough for some people to actually put them in the same league as Liverpool, Manchester United.

I have deliberately omitted Chelsea because they weren't exactly known as a "super big" team until very recent with the club's purchase by a Russian oligarch.

At the helm of the club is an astute Frenchman Arsene Wenger. Arsène Wenger (born 22 October 1949 in Strasbourg) has managed English the side since 1996. He is the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal in terms of trophies and is also the club's longest-serving manager in terms of matches played (having passed the 700 mark in December 2008).

Wenger has been described as a coach who "has spent his career building teams that combine the accumulation of silverware with a desire to entertain and attack," and as "a purist, dedicated to individual and collective technical quality."

The Times notes that since 2003-04 Wenger's approach to the game has been an emphasis on attack. His style of play has been contrasted with the pragmatic approach of his rivals,but has also been criticised for lacking a "killer touch."

Whether or not Arsenal deserves to be ridiculed for its status in world football is another matter. What cannot be denied however is that, the London club is one team that consistently and constantly been able to bring the world to a stand still with its breath taking football.

The Premier League  has in recent seasons seen an unprecedented numbers of foreign team ownership. 

Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool are three of the so called big four who are currently owned by non-English legal entities. Of these three only Chelsea made little or not effort to show their opposition to being foreign owned. 

The result of these various take overs has been that these clubs were now awash with money enabling them to raid the transfer markets at will or at least with no stringent limitation.

Not so however, Arsenal. They remain free for now from the shackles of foreign ownership. But for how long will the gunners be able to resist this? It has been quite a spectacular show by the club to fight off several take overs.

Alisher Usmanov, a rotund Russian Oligarch who was introduced to the Arsenal Board by erstwhile Arsenal employee David Dein has intimated several times of his intentions to own the club without actually going all the way. So far his attempts have either been half hearted or dismissed by the club. It depends on who you ask.

More recently however, an American football owner and billionaire Stan Kroenke has steadily increased his shareholding in the club to just below what the authorities allow before enforcing a takeover. Arsenal remain steadfast in their opposition to being taken over. But as i wondered is it any wonder that the club are flowing against the tides of change? What is it that a proud English club stands to gain by being taken over.

Depending on who you listen to:

Pros

  • More exposure and being introduced to several and different markets means more money by way of international exposure.
  • More money into the club means that good players can be tied down to long and financially rewarding deals.
  • The clubs might be halved in double quick time.
  • Arsene Wenger will worry less about being prudent and developing players and just concentrate on winning trophies.

Cons

  • Chelsea will be hard pressed to say that they have more fans in Russia now than they had before. Liverpool are still not a major sporting brand in North America despite being owned by well known Americans business men.
  • New Owners might pile more debt into the club making a ticking time bomb.
  • New Owners with little interest in the sport, country of the team, the tradition of the club are more after profit than moving the club forward.

Whilst the likes of even mid tables teams like Manchester City, Aston Villa and West ham have been bought and continues to change owners like underwear, none of these have so far proven that foreign currency equates success. If anything, foreign has brought massive headaches for clubs and fans.

The truth is, Arsenal are not worse financially than any of its rivals. but the temptation of selling the club to a single might prove just too much to resist. So does the club need financial assistance?

In April 2008, business magazine Forbes ranked Arsenal as third most valuable football team in the world, after Manchester UTD and Real Madrid , valuing the club at $1.2bn (£605m), excluding debt. Accountants Deloitte rate Arsenal sixth in the 2009 Football Money League, a ranking of the world's football clubs in terms of revenue, with the club earning £209.3m in the 2007-08 season.

So clearly the club is doing quite alright if you asked me. As of August 25, 2009, a single share in Arsenal has a mid price of £7,150, meaning the club's market capitalisation value is approximately £444.9m. The club made a pre-tax operating profit (excluding player transfers) of £36.7m in the year ending 31 May 2008, from a turnover of £223.0m.

Knowing the above, why the deluded obsession then with encouraging a take over? Or is it that, just because the club's major rivals have gone foreign so the same should apply for Arsenal.

I for one am against foreign and a single entity owning the club. As it stands Arsenal's parent company, Arsenal Holdings plc, operates as a non quoted public limited company, whose ownership is considerably different from that of other football clubs.

Only 62,217 shares in Arsenal have been issued, and they are not traded on a public exchange such as the FTSE; instead, they are traded relatively infrequently on PLUS, a specialist market.

And whats wrong with that?

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