Why Supporter Shareholders are Important for Arsenal

As Ivan Gazidis will face 300 representatives of supporter groups this evening, it seems an appropriate time to post some information about the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust.

The AST gets some flak from certain other Arsenal fans. I realise that these days every viewpoint of every Arsenal fan will get flak from some other Arsenal supporter somewhere, so in that sense I’m not surprised by it, but I think there are misconceptions about why the AST exists.

Of course things have changed since the AST was formed a decade ago. Arsenal’s Board at that time professed to be – and to be fair largely was – all about custodianship, with the emphasis on the fact that three generations of Hill-Woods had been chairmen and three generations of the Bracewell-Smith family were Board members. There were some large shareholders who were on the Board and a couple of thousand smaller shareholders who held around 10% of the shares. No one wanted to take Arsenal over and turn it into a personal money-making machine, the Board largely worked together to do what was right for the club. Already it seems like a simpler happier time.

Of course the smaller shareholders didn’t always like what the big ones were doing, and they had a chance every year to go to the AGM and say so – not that it usually did any good. Nonetheless, with Arsenal as a public company the Board did (and do) have to answer to the smaller shareholders up to a point, and thus they have to answer to supporters. If there are no small shareholders then there is no answerability. None. If there are fewer smaller shareholders than there were before, there is less answerability. If there is one majority shareholder rather than a number of large shareholders who own no more than 10-20% each, there is still less answerability. You can see where this is going: if there is only one owner holding all the shares then not only is there no answerability to supporters, but there are no checks and balances within the Board itself.

There were also some disagreements between the larger shareholders, though these got markedly worse in the years since the AST’s formation, with a variety of Arsenal Board members being ousted for various reasons (usually talking to someone Danny Fiszman didn’t like).

So the AST wanted to maintain the good things about the set up, and represent the smaller shareholders. Now, although there are fewer small shareholders in their own right, there are 2,000 Fanshare members who own parts of shares, so in total the number of people with an ownership interest in Arsenal has been maintained.

Unfortunately the Board make-up has also changed for the worse, with one majority shareholder who can pretty much do what he wants. So personally I think it’s important that supporters still have some kind of voice, and the best way to do that is by being shareholders, because that’s the only way the club actually has to listen.

This isn’t an AST manifesto, and obviously if you’re interested then just look at the AST website for more, but a few things the AST believes are:

  • The best ownership model will always include supporters as shareholders
  • The AST would ideally like to see a minimum of 25% of shares in the hands of small shareholders and/or supporters’ groups, so that supporters have an appropriate voice.
  • The AST accepts the reality that any stake in Arsenal is available at any time should someone make an acceptable bid, but we oppose any bid to buy the club outright and take it into single ownership
  • Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person.
  • The AST would fight any plans by a purchaser of Arsenal to charge the acquisition debt against Arsenal and use the club’s income to service this debt, as has happened at Manchester United (and Liverpool under Hicks and Gillett)
  • The AST always wants to see profits reinvested into the club and we do not support dividend payments
  • The AST intends to always remain in dialogue with the current Board and Chief Executive on ownership subjects, as well as with any major shareholder outside the Board
  • A long term view needs to be taken; reacting to individual events such as losing any single match is not the best way.

Tomorrow: feedback from the Ivan Gazidis Q&A tonight, and more reasons why supporters need a voice.

Follow me on twitter: @AngryOfN5

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9 thoughts on “Why Supporter Shareholders are Important for Arsenal

  1. BUY GOOD AND WELL KNOWN EXPERIENCED PLAYERS.
    GOOD DEFENDER AND A PLAY MAKER AND ALSO A SHARP STRIKER. SIMPLE.
    IT WILL HELP ARSENAL TO COMPETE FOR TROPHY

  2. While Arsenal remains a club to fund stan/KSE, etc. the supporter’s voice will fall on deaf ears. Media must ask wenger if his hands are tied, why it takes so long for Arsenal to buy players these days (probably to pretend to the fans that are trying or hope that they get a unlikely bargin for which then the media get the fans to blame wenger). Any of david or darren dein buying shares if no-one trusts usmonov and stan??

  3. I’m a shareholder – I have been for over 10 years. My issue with the AST in the past that it’s not always reflected my views. Please take it as read that I am a fan and love the team, supported them my whole life. I am also a practical man too and understand that as well as a club they are a business too. Yes I’d LOVE for money to be thrown at players to bring them in, but is it sustainable? Part of me dies inside each year when we go out of a competition – but it’s back again at the start of the new season. Did I moan about Wenger? To an extent yes – and if you didn’t even have the modicum of doubts then you’re too blinded by the club (in my opinion).

    Going back to my first point though, I don’t think that my views and the AST are fully compatible and the couple of times I’ve tried engaging AST members, most notably at the last AGM, I’ve felt extremely disheartened.

    So what place is there for me in the AST as a full shareholder? Would my opinions get taken seriously? Here’s a good one – I personally believe Arsenal should invest a little into other sports. Many European teams (FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Maccabi Tel Aviv, CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahçe, Besiktas) all have a basketball team. Personally I’d LOVE for there to be an Arsenal baskeball team. It would help develop a true sporting brand, and not just football. I doubt many would agree though, especially as it’s looked upon as a US Sport but engaging more young people into sport, (and I know Arsenal already have many smaller sporting projects) would be excellent. Our main basketball export is an Arsenal fan too.

    That’s one long paragraph about basketball on a football post – apologies. However I hope from that you can see that there is part of me that looks at the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong though – I want to see Arsenal Football Club success more than anything and am GUTTED that Chelsea somehow won the CL before we could.

  4. Bob – i have said for years Arsenal should have a Basket Ball team. I agree completely, it would make finding a new sport easy as football is dead.

    Man City and Chelsea got the 3 biggest available cups this year. The only other team to lift a trophy was Liverpool. Who sacked their manager woh speant £120m on pony players.

    Losing interest in football, i dont think us doing the same would help either. I would hate to be like them.

    COME ON THE GUNNERS

    • Football isn’t dead and Arsenal isn’t dead. The problem is that other teams are not only passing us by but leapfrogging over us. To compete we need change on the pitch as well as off.

      That basketball idea is just one that I personally would like to see because it’s another sport I have alot of time for, and would love to see the brand that is Arsenal embody more sports. I know we already have dealings with other sports and know someone that used to play hockey in Arsenal colours. It’s just a small fantasy of mine – one that’ll never happen I’m sure.

  5. I don’t care if it’s Netball, Baseball or Basketball but all in good time.
    Firstly we need to improve our world brand and that is only achievable with investment to a degree and of course eventually a trophy,but I feel we may have to wait some time

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