Peter Hill-Wood is an old duffer, as we know, and I have had a go at him several times recently. I firmly believe it is time for him to stand down – or at least aside – and put a younger, more dynamic and modern-thinking man in place as Arsenal Chairman. This is not to say I don’t appreciate what he, his father and grandfather have done for Arsenal over the years, but it’s time for a change. By all means keep PH-W as club president or some other honorary title to recognise his and his family’s service, but he shouldn’t be making announcements and attempting to run the AGM.
But even PH-W wasn’t always old. Twenty years ago he was considerably more with it than he is now. This is an interview from April 1992 after a relatively poor season for Arsenal. There were big changes going on in football, with the Taylor Report forcing the impending closure of terraces and the formation of the Premier League.
It was a dynamic time at Arsenal too. The previous year we’d been champions, one match away from an unbeaten season, and top for the second time in three years. We were England’s biggest club for a brief period between the dominant periods of Liverpool and Man Utd, but in 1991-92 we showed only flashes of that kind of form, while Leeds and Man U fought it out at the top. Off the field there were protests about Arsenal Bonds, an idea that was born from the need to spend money upgrading the stadium. This interview concentrates on that subject and the mood in football and outside. As now, it was a time of recession and belt-tightening, but fan protests about bonds were much more vociferous than any recent protests about increased ticket prices.
PH-W comes over in this as seeing the bigger picture around football pretty well. He recognises the public and government perception of the game, and the lack of sympathy in official circles. There’s also evidence of ‘same old story’, though – referring to the Bond marketing he says, “With hindsight, we’ve been guilty of not getting the PR right.” Didn’t Ivan admit the same thing this week, 20 years on?
PH-W talks about the need to increase commercial activities to ensure that ticket prices are pegged “at realistic levels”. Uh-huh. And of course manager George Graham will never be forced to sell our best players due to financial constraints, because “We want to be the best team in Europe.” Double uh-huh.
I’m always struck by the changing monetary values in these pieces from a couple of decades ago – £16.5 million for the new North Bank Stand is described as “monumental”, and at £1,100 or £1,500 a bond then was the same price as a season ticket now.
As for the football, the young Ray Parlour is singled out for praise by his Chairman, who assures us we have a squad full of top class players, a bad season is a temporary blip and another go at the European Cup would be terrific. What’s that saying about how the more things change the more they stay the same?
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