Some brief notes on Ivan’s Q&A last night. The evening went like this:
7:00pm – in we go to the Royal Oak suite in the North Bank Club Level. Handed a free drink voucher on entry. Much milling around and chatting. Various stands in place with display of new home kit and other commercial kind of stuff. The keen ones already sitting in the seats in front of a small podium with two chairs.
7:30 – Ivan and Dan Roebuck arrive on stage and Dan introduces a video showing some highs and lows from the season (nothing from the domestic cups).
7:37-ish – Dan introduces Ivan, who says some brief opening remarks, including that these sessions are important and will continue.
7:40 – first question: What’s Ivan’s view of the whole season? Ivan then talked for over 20 minutes, mostly very coherently, but without telling us anything much. What came over strongly was that he believes FFP will work. He said clubs themselves are crying out for it, so it will – but if it doesn’t, then basically we’re all buggered, apart from whoever has the richest owner at the time, and there is always someone richer round the corner. If we wait three years and FFP hasn’t worked, we’ll think of a new plan.
8:05-8:35 – ten more questions in total. Firstly RvP – see answer given on Arsenal.com on Tuesday, which was virtually repeated word for word.
Transfers – lessons have been learnt from last year, but it wasn’t such a shambles as people think (yes it bloody was!).
We need some new players, Ivan, do you agree? – First hesitation in any answer at this point. Answer then veered off to say that (as we know) AW always comes out in support of the team, no matter how appallingly bad they have been, and it is tempting for the Board to brief the press against the manager sometimes, to show understanding with the position of fans who don’t believe a word of what AW is saying. But they’re not going to do that.
Fifth question: Our wage structure is a bit stupid: discuss. Answer: it’s not stupid, it’s different; we need to increase revenue in a responsible way to pay for the players we want; we need to be as efficient as possible, and that can be improved – all of which Ivan has said for as long as I can remember him saying anything. But apparently our wage inefficiencies are not as bad as most. I’d beg to differ on that point. Only Man City and Chelsea are demonstrably less efficient, because they can afford to be and it matters not one jot.
A question on the effect of FFP and whether Usmanov should be invited on to the Board. Ivan answered this by waffling a bit about how all the Board are long-term fans (though obviously Stan isn’t) and it’s important to avoid any conflict, maintain unity, etc etc. He didn’t mention Usmanov by name in the answer, though the implication was clear. At some point, may have been here, he also mentioned again how all the employees of Arsenal are big fans with emotional attachment – which they’re not.
More FFP: If Arsenal are in favour of it so strongly, why sell players to clubs who are financially doped? I think the answer was on the lines of shrugging shoulders and “Well, what can you do?”, but to be honest I was put off by his digression onto the topic of Cesc, where he said that however much we got for him from Barcelona it wouldn’t be enough to replace him because he was world class. Well pardon my logic, but if we got a fair world class price for him we could have afforded another world class player to replace him! But he admitted that Cesc had us over a barrel. Which we all knew, though some Arsenal supporters still seem to worship Cesc.
Next: Why is the club’s PR so bad? IG: Well I agree it’s not great, but we’re misrepresented. Sometimes that’s true. I could come up with a conspiracy theory here . . . Oh no, I won’t bother, it’s been done. Moving swiftly on.
Are we going to get some better sponsorship deals for kit and shirt sponsor when the deals run out? IG: Oh yes, it’ll be great. Commercial deals are really going well. Five year plan, etc. By the way, new kits will last two years again from now (and I think you’ll find I was first on twitter to announce that the new home kit would be ours for two years – yay, go me! ITK). However, as we’ve got two new kits again this year, does that mean the purple away kit is also going to last two years? We’ll see. Ivan was very proud of this two-year kit announcement, even though we seem to have had at least two new kits a year for ages.
Why are we so crap at contracts? For useful effective players they’re too short, but Diaby’s goes on forever. IG: Contracts are always difficult, but we’re on the way to getting it right.
Why are away tickets so hard for silver members to get? IG: Because we’re a popular club.
There was also an AST question: IG spoke in support of supporter shareholders when he arrived at Arsenal, but since the takeover this has changed. Can he reiterate his support for Fanshare, custodianship and supporter ownership?
“We continue to be supportive of it [Fanshare].” Really? How?
Ivan then said that he wanted to engage with all fans equally, whether shareholders, season ticket holders, casual fans watching on TV, or presumably any bloke he sees in the street wearing a red tie and a white shirt. So now it’s no longer important to him or Arsenal that they have any other shareholders than S Kroenke. Not only do they not want to talk to Usmanov, they don’t see any other shareholder as important either.
Dan Roebuck then wrapped up, and Ivan said he’d be glad to talk to anyone at the bar. He didn’t get that far, though, because he was besieged on the podium, and about ten minutes later there was an announcement that it was shortly time to “clear the venue”.
@DarrenArsenal1 managed to get through the scrum and get in a question on the rights issue, which Ivan with his impeccable reverse logic said was a waste of time as it led only to further escalation of the spending arms race. This reiterates the position we already knew – as in fact did almost every comment of the evening.
I know Ivan’s in a difficult position with an absent owner and a manager who had so much power before Ivan arrived that there’s nothing he can do to impose himself. On the other hand I’m sure the £1.5m remuneration is some comfort.
I feel I should congratulate Ivan and Arsenal for having these sessions, but on the other hand, what do we learn? It’s good for Ivan to mingle with real supporters and feel some emotion from them, but ultimately his actions speak louder than words. And I think we’re all still waiting for some more actions.