The 2010 AGM of Arsenal Holdings Plc held this morning. The only reason I didn't attend was the fact that I was stuck behind a desk in Lagos creating ba....wait scratch that. I'm not yet a shareholder. I can't join Arsenal Fanshare because I live abroad and I don't have media credentials so I'd probably have been told off if I showed up at the door asking to attend the meeting.
Thanks goes out to the Arsenal community on Twitter, particularly to the likes of @DarrenArsenal1 and @GoonerFanzine whose live updates were made available on Twitter, as well as a summary of most of what was said is contained below as well as my thoughts.
According to Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood, the only debt the club owes is a mortgage on the Emirates Stadium and debentures which are both long term. I believe this is good news for the long term financial stability of the club, as the club is under no pressure to repay such loans, unlike the case at Liverpool and Manchester Utd.
CEO Ivan Gazidis stated that the Arsenal shareholders do not ask for dividends, as such, the club does not rely on "outside investment" for success. Was this a thinly veiled shot at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City with financial sugar daddies bankrolling the club? The Arsenal model is an entirely self sustaining one, and as Hill-Wood said, Arsenal are looked upon as the model for how things should be done. Hill-Wood went on to stress that good financial results are not the primary objective, but that everything they do is consistent with standards and values that Arsenal represent, and that there is a growing movement towards responsible ownership. In addition, he spoke with pride about the likes of Vic Akers and Ken Friar whom he described as always looking forward.
The first non-financial question concerned the food contract with Delaware regarding the quality of food available in general access areas. The shareholder complained about the face that the food choice is very limited and expensive on club levels, and expressed concern about the ways in which this relationship could be reviewed and improved. Ivan Gazidis responded to this saying that the objective is to exceed levels of expectation and that the club was in conversation with Delaware and changes would be filtering through in club level.
On the issue of the volume of the public address system at the Emirates Stadium being too loud and spoiling the enjoyment of fans, the Chairman answered by saying “Its not a question of just turning the knob down," but that it will be reviewed. I've been to the Emirates Stadium several times and I have never had any issues with the PA system. In fact, I think it is a world class address system. Still I suppose everyone has a right to their opinion.
It was noted that the cost of raising long term finance had doubled and the the reasons for this increase were requested. The answer being that the loan on Highbury Square had been renegotiated but that most of this increased cost pertained to fees.
Arsenal's accounts for the last two years have been boosted greatly by revenue from the sale of the Highbury Apartments project, and the issue of how the club intends to continue boosting revenues after property sales cease was raised at the meeting. In response to this, it was stated that property sales were expected to continue for the next two-to-three years, after which the club would then be driven by commercial revenues. I guess that is why there was a conscious decision to restructure the club's commercial division with the appointment of Tom Fox as the club's Chief Commercial Officer. Speaking at a Sports Marketing 360 event in London recently, Fox said. . .
"We spend a lot of time working on how we can build a successful model that is not so relying on winning. It is about insulating ourselves."
Peter Hill-Wood was also asked about Arsene Wenger being invited to join the Arsenal board. In his own words, "Arsene Wenger is too busy and doesn't want to be bothered with it at the moment." However, he seemed open to the possibility stating that it could happen one day.
One issue on the mind of many supporters is the quality and cost of content on Arsenal TV Online, the club subscription only online TV Service. A question along these lines was asked by another attendee, "I pay a lot for my gold season ticket why can't I get ATVO included for free" Ivan Gazidis replied saying that in the future Arsenal TV online may be included in membership packages, but no decision on this had been reached.
On the decision to play reserve matches behind closed doors, the Chairman said the decision was taken to limit number of games open to public. He also claimed it to be a difficult balancing act as in his words, "Unfortunately we are not allowed a lot of people at Shenley or Colney or whatever it is." To me it seemed he didn't even know where the training ground was. That must have been worth a laugh.
The chairman also claimed knowledge of the fact that Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith is looking to sell her shares in the club, but no more than that, and that her shares firstly have to be offered internally. On the intentions of Stan Kroenke, he responded that he was unsure whether the American wanted a blocking stake, but under market rules he couldn't answer. Fair enough! Neither will Silent Stan!
No AGM would be complete without questions about why funds are not made available for players, in this case a new goalkeeper and defensive reinforcements. Peter Hill-Wood stated that there are several reasons why players don't join Arsenal, but money is not one of them. I believe this, as I know that the club is in a financial position to attract the best talent in the world. He then invited Arsene Wenger to return to the topic in his address later, stating that the Manager analyses decides and judges who is good enough for the team, quipping that he probably did it better than nearly everyone else.
Manager Arsene Wenger declared himself to be a fan as well, and like any fan he sometimes criticises the manager (himself). How honest! I'd love to hear that conversation! However, unlike a few people I know, he said that he's isn't as pessimistic as most people are and sees a great opportunity to be successful this season by declaring that the team have "spirit, hunger and desire," I agree with him 100% on this.
He acknowledged the fact that the team has weaknesses, but that they all work hard to address those issues and that has big regrets from last season. He also remarked that he gets advice every day, but that he doesn't comment on players as it undermines them. He also stated that the club looks worldwide for players, and haven’t done too badly with players that have been bought. Arsenal's new signings Sebastien Squillaci, Laurent Koscielny, and Marouane Chamakh are winners who don't talk too much, but work very hard and have integrated well.
For this season, he promises that the club would go for every single competition this season, using the available resources and that we need to trust him and the players. He went ont to state that the team is young but mature now. He also made mention of the fact that we have some of the best 17 year old English players at the club. I look at the likes of Chuks Aneke, Benik Afobe and Emmanuel Frimpong and cannot but dream about a glorious future for the club.
Talking tactics and statistics, the manager stated that in big games the team who scores first either wins or draws 62 percent and 17 percent of the time, respectively. Hence, it is important to be positive and not purely defensive. Nevertheless, he promises Arsenal will play a strong team at Newcastle next week in the Carling Cup. On the likes of Denilson and Diaby, their stats for winning tackles are as good as any other holding midfielders in the league.
Regarding the defensive frailties, Arsene Wenger says that the team must improve and can't afford to concede more than 25-28 goals a season. His opinion on the Rooney situation is unclear as he says it’s too sensitive to talk about, which shows how fragile the situation is when a player's contract is less than 2 years. AW says this is the club of his heart, of his life, and will contribute in whatever way he can.
On the general issue of injuries, he admits that the team have been hit hard. He described the club's medical staff as a very competent medical staff, adding that the club analyzes and check every training method available, and that many injuries are as a result of bad tackles (Diaby, Eduardo, Walcott, Ramsey) or happen with national teams (Van Persie, Bendtner, Vermaelen). Compared to other clubs Arsenal have similar number of injuries, but more longer term injuries
Unfortunately, he was unable to say when Vermaelen will play again. Personally I believe we won't see him again in an Arsenal shirt until next year, but rumours were unfolding yesterday speculating that he might be out for the entire season. I think it's too early to judge that yet.
In closing, he stated the fact that Cesc Fabregas deeply loves the club and he wants to win with this club. If he didn't he would have gone. His hope is that our captain will stay for many years and is confident he will.
Peter Hill-Wood and Danny Fiszman were re-elected as directors unanimously.
I don't yet have a full list of all the directors who were present but I will update the article as more information becomes available.
In all, I believe it was a successful AGM with many positives. There is hope indeed for the Arsenal.
Till next time...Victoria Concordia Crescit.