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We Want Our Arsenal Back!!!

November 14, 2012

I like doing blog Match Reports for a bit of fun to see the game as it is with a bit of humour and not to be taken too seriously. I like watching Arsenal Football Club, I go as often as I can (Season ticket holder). I support (SUPPORT) Arsenal Football Club… Not blindly, but I support them and when things are not going well, then that’s when I want to show my support even more.

“We want our Arsenal back”

I have read and heard this comment a lot lately. What does it mean? Does it mean – I want a certain era Arsenal team back? Does it mean “we want a less corporate Arsenal?”

If it’s we want a certain era Arsenal team back, what one? Arsenal 1969-71. Arsenal 76-80. Arsenal 86-95. Arsenal 1996-2005???? If I was asked to choose which one, I would go for the 1996-2005 Arsenal vintage. The best era I have ever seen Arsenal, with the greatest players I have ever seen at Arsenal under the greatest manager I’ve seen at Arsenal. However, if it means “corporate” then I’m not sure what people are asking for.

Also worth remembering is if Spurs supporters were chanting “We want our Spurs back” what one would they choose? The one in black & white 🙂

Let’s assume for now it’s corporate Arsenal and “we get our non-corporate Arsenal back?” What Arsenal will get? The way I see it, Arsenal are not the only club going down this route so how do we go less corporate when other clubs would be going the other way.

Let’s go back to 1992. You remember 1992? That was when a club called Man Utd had won seven-league titles (none for 26 years) and Arsenal had won eight. Liverpool had been the team of the two previous decades. Having won a total of 18 league titles. Man Utd were miles behind on seven. In 1985 Liverpool played Juventus – 39 fans died. Then in 1989 Liverpool played Nottingham Forest – 96 people died. Now I am not laying the blame at Liverpool’s doorstep, others have and can do that, but after 1989 the landscape of football changed.

The Taylor report saw football take a good, long hard look at itself. Football stadia were to be made all-seater. This would take some time and of course a lot of money. Some clubs were not affected too much. Arsenal had a stadium that held 63.000 at Highbury. It was reduced to around 45.000 when the Clock End was renovated to include executive boxes and a roof and then all-seater reduced that by 1993 when the North Stand was opened to 38.000, nowhere near big enough for a top football club, one of England’s greatest clubs.

On the other hand Old Trafford was reduced to 44.000 for a few years. Three years later it was up to 50.000 and it kept growing. With Old Trafford being on an industrial shite site it was not too hard to expand and today it holds 75.000. Success and expansion went hand in hand for United.

With all-seater stadia came safer football, families could now attend, the yob culture was being kicked out of the game. Back in the mid 1990’s the cost of sitting at football was obviously much more expensive that standing. Mobs could not take each others ends or fight on the terraces with them full of seats, battles were left to the surrounding streets. However, the Police were learning and strategy planning that made fighting around grounds a thing of the past. Football violence was stigmatised.

One of football’s ironies is that two matches involving Liverpool fans brought about a change in how fans watched football and that change brought a resurgence in Man Utd’s fortunes where they now have 19 titles to Liverpool’s 18 and Liverpool have not won the league since 1990. Now if you had told me back in 1990 that Liverpool would go 22 years without winning a league title I would have laughed at you.

With football stadia now being safe as they had ever been, football was in vogue. I have worked for Solicitors since 1979 and I can tell you the topic of football was one that did not go down well back in the 70’s and 80’s. Then when football became a family game suddenly my Partners were going to matches and asking for tickets. Asking me about football and happy to chat about it. Today my Son and I go to football with one of our Partners and his Son, both massive Gooners and get tickets for many others Partners and Solicitors. My firm even got six club level seats at The Emirates.

Being in vogue, sponsors were now happy to put their name to the game, it was after all now Family Friendly Football. It was getting easy for clubs to get big money kit sponsorship deals. Sky TV and Rupert Murdoch saw a way to expand. They had their satellite system BskyB to sell. I remember at the time the talk was if BskyB got the football for the men and Coronation Street for ladies they could sell dishes buy the truck load. Well they got football alright and football changed from the Football League to the Premier League, clubs were going to get well rewarded for having their games shown live on BskyB. When BskyB’s coverage started the games were on for about five hours on a Sunday and also had American style Monday night football with Fireworks, Cheerleaders and Richard Keys with his multicoloured jackets.

Over the years since 1992 each new contract signed with Sky TV brought more live matches and more and more money. The next set of contracts for showing football, inc live TV – home and abroad, on broadband, radio etc could total some £5 billion over three years. Most of the money that has been coming in was going to the players. Agents saw a killing to be made – popped up all over the place. Clubs were getting tens of millions and spending it on player transfer fees and wages. Ticket prices in turn were still going up and up.

The ordinary working mans 3pm Saturday afternoon football was being eroded – taken to the middle-classes. The fixtures were suddenly all over the place Saturday morning, afternoon, early evening. Sunday lunch time and Sunday Afternoon. Monday night. In the end European football as well was showing live coverage of both Champions league and UEFA Cup matches, football was saturating the TV screens. If you had a season ticket it was a nightmare planning matches. If you brought travel tickets early to save money you could be stitched up with games being changed for TV as and when Sky felt it. They were the paymasters, they made the rules.

Transfer fees and players wages kept going up. The bigger clubs with the bigger organic following built up over many years were coping slightly better, yet even some of them were spending far too much and risking their future for short-term success. Many smaller clubs were spending way beyond their means borrowing in advance of money coming from Sky. Again looking for short-term success at what ever level they were playing at. If the short-term success did not arrive… Debt-debt-debt…

The more money the clubs got from TV, the more the players earned and the more the clubs needed more money. Agents were for ever touting players, looking for new deals, even with players still under contract. The sponsorship money got bigger… The TV money got bigger, but still ticket prices rose. Today football is a multi-billion pound business. CORPORATE!!! In all this no one in football, running football, The FA, UEFA, the Clubs seemed to give a Gareth Bale about the supporters.

Clubs now wanted more than just the middle class. They wanted the upper class and big business. Executive boxes and as many as they could cram in. If the stadium did not allow for this, clubs moved stadia or built new stands to inCORPORATE executive boxes. Stadia like The Emirates that had executive boxes right around the pitch with the best views at a high cost. In fact the 7000 Diamond Club, Executive boxes and Club level seats were said to bring in more than what the 38000 did at Highbury. The other 53000 were extra bunce for the club. Family atmosphere meant companies could buy boxes put there names on the outside of those boxes, happy to be seen as part of the new football.

UEFA wanted a slice of the action.. Out went the European Cup Winners Cup and in turn a revamped European Cup turned into the Champions League and the lesser UEFA Cup was a poor distant Cousin. Sponsors were queuing up to chuck money into the game both domestic and European. Players wages and transfer fees went up and up. Ticket prices went up and up.

1998 saw Arsenal win the double. New manager of 18 months Arsene Wenger was seen as a hero. Standing on the balcony of Islington Town Hall having taken the open top bus ride from Arsenal Stadium, Arsene was looking down at the masses in front of him cheering on their heroes. He had seen anything from 500k-1m fans line the route. He spoke and said he could see why we need a bigger ground. Highbury was a sell out for every match for years.

Arsenal played Champions League group matches at Wembley, getting crowds of 70.000, almost 30.000 more what Highbury could hold. Football was getting even more corporate with middle and upper classes. It was not just Arsenal that was looking to be more corporate, but ALL clubs. It would have been no good standing still while the rest were looking to make as much money as they could to pay the footballing Gods players they needed to fill stadia and win trophies.

Arsene was a breath of fresh air, he changed things, not just at Arsenal, but football itself. We were winning trophies and finishing first or second in the title battling with Man Utd. United had built Old Trafford first into a 58000 stadium by 2006 it held 67000 and today 75000.

Arsenal had to look at options and to keep up with the biggest clubs in the world, they had no choice but to move from Arsenal Stadium their home of ninety-three years if they wanted to compete. Different sites inc Wembley were looked at and after a couple of fans flew over the area in a helicopter Ashburton Grove was chosen.

Some £400m was needed to build the stadium. The club looked at financing, bank loans etc. Arsenal were also looking at raising money themselves to pay for some of the build. One of these was the naming rights and kit sponsorship and a deal was done with Emirates Airlines to name the stadium “The Emirates” and have the logo “Emirates” on the team kit at £100m.

In 2006 this looked a good deal – also Arsenal hands were somewhat tied as they had to raise money. The deal was to run until 2014. Therefore where other clubs have recently renewed their shirt deals for much bigger sums, is it really a fair comparison? Maybe in today’s frustrated football fans world, comparing our deal and the big money deals of today are just a stick to beat the club with, to tie in with some fans agenda’s. I do wonder if some fans today would be happy to see Arsenal fail just to prove a pint so they can say “look I was right”

2012 and Arsenal have been in the Emirates Stadium for six-years. A purpose build 60.000 super stadium right in the heart of London a few miles from the City of London. If you’re gonna have executive boxes, you might as well have one of the biggest financial institutions in the world almost on your doorstep. Arsenal did not re-build their stadium piece meal like United in stages over years. Nor are they still at their current grounds like Chelsea, Spurs or Liverpool. These are clubs who have to somehow find huge sums to either rebuild their current stadia or even bigger sums to move outright into new stadia.

Once the Emirates stadium was built the club and I’m pretty sure us fans thought “here we go, the big time has arrived” The excitement of attending DB10’s testimonial and the very first game against Aston villa was amazing. Highbury was our home, but Emirates was the future, or so we though and still hope it will be.

Little did Arsenal know (though Roman had been there three years) that Chelsea would become United’s rivals taking our place, spending hundreds of millions of a rich mans money that was thrown at the club to buy trophies. Let’s not kid ourselves this was not the case. Chelsea won nothing for 50 years and they did not suddenly win three titles in a short time without Roman’s money . A few years ago another multi-billionaire entered the race Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his oil money. The Sheikh pumped about a £billion into Manchester City and suddenly a club that was a joke in Manchester, won the FA Cup and the next season the Premier League, their first for 43 years. Money make prizes.

The Billionaire playboys upped the Anti. They could afford what they wanted. They just threw money at any problem they might have and a few they didn’t have. Suddenly top footballers who would not contemplated joining clubs like Chelsea and City, were looking at fat salaries and signed. Get enough top players in and it will surely follow your club/team will be successful.

Chelsea/City blew Arsenal out of the water put us down to being a fourth place club/team (though we did finish third last season). Man Utd obviously being the biggest club in the world would still have a say with their larger income.

Clubs like Arsenal would hopefully rely on their players being loyal to the club, but this is the new modern football, players show very little loyalty to clubs, but plenty of loyalty to cash. On the other hand the rich, doped clubs like City/Chelsea loyalty is the other way round. You see if a player messes about, not playing well or just does not fit in, they are expendable and it matters not that anything up to £30m might have been paid for them. Chelsea and City can just discard them and take a huge hit without batting an eyelid. They can do the same with managers, no matter each time they have to fork out £20m in paying them off. Chelsea and City do not need loyalty.

So today we have two clubs that have bottomless pit of money. Then we have other clubs trying to be successful without breaking their clubs structure. To keep up clubs like Arsenal need to raise money, huge sums of money. They need the best deals on sponsorship they can get. Sadly the two best deals for any club is kit sponsorship and stadium naming rights, which Arsenal had locked in till 2014. Looks poor today, but back then no one was complaining. There are other deals to be made and smaller deals if you get enough of them, like United they add up. Arsenal look to be in the process of doing just that.

Arsenal have two billionaires at the club. One owns the club with the majority of shares, the other one of the richest men in the world own 30% and yet does not even have a say in running the club. Yet Arsenal want to and always have run the clubs as a self-sustaining club. Running the club on what the club earns. Times have been hard for the supporters seeing the club do what I think is the right thing. I don’t really want a billionaire funding us. I want football clubs to run themselves. Any growth, organic growth.

Then there is Commercial activity like shirt selling and club shops. which are changed almost every year now by clubs to get more money in.

Let’s face it Gooners Arsenal have dropped to fourth in the pecking order when the odds are fixed on for winning the league at the start of each season now. This in turn means Liverpool and Spurs have dropped down a peg or two as well. Go further and all the other clubs are dropping down the pecking order, yet they all want success of kinds. What is success today for City and Chelsea is different from the success Stoke can reasonably expect. Stoke may look for a top six spot and maybe a good run to a Cup Final. It’s all relative to a clubs sensible ambitions. However this all costs money and clubs have been putting themselves in huge debt to get their ambitions.

As I said all clubs are commercial businesses today not just football clubs like we used to know. The huge sums of money have changed the landscape. So if we want our Arsenal back and it’s the pre-commercial one, then how can that be done unless all the other clubs also do the same thing. If they don’t and we change, then we’ll be left behind in an even worse situation that we are now. I would expect that as soon as it happened, the very same fans who were asking for their Arsenal back, would be the ones complaining that we are finishing in the lower half of the table each season.

Football sold it’s soul to the devil not just Arsenal. Like many others, I do have issues about the modern Arsenal, however, they are my club and I will carry on supporting them thick or thin. Win or lose. Good times or bad. I’m not overly enjoyed about the hype that surrounds the game today. I think it’s more to do with football itself that I feel different about the modern Arsenal.

I read Arsenal football forum the other day  ” Arsenal don’t need a new board/manager, they need an Accountant. Maybe we should put the AST in charge? See how we do over the next few years.

I can only hope that the news rules the English clubs are looking to bring in on fair play and that of the ones UEFA are looking to bring in succeed.

Maybe we should be asking

We want our football back”

I just hope themarch by the British School of Motoring does not come back to bite us on the Arse. I think a lot of other clubs supporters out there will be watching and maybe asking what have they got to moan about. While a lot will sympathise as well. Good luck to them.



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