‘The Trial Of The Arsenal Board’ – A Farce In One Act

I tried to remember what happened at the AGM last month, but my notes were incomplete. When I came to write them up they came out like this. The words may not all be exactly as it happened, but I know the gist is correct. You couldn’t make this stuff up.  

The Arsenal Board have been accused of many crimes. Recently justice caught up with them, and they were brought in front of a panel of their peers.
Judge presiding: The Right Honourable Sir Samuel Hill-Wood (dec’d).
Prosecutor: Herbert Chapman (dec’d).

The Right Honourable Sir Samuel Hill-Wood (dec’d): Members of the jury, shareholders; you are here to listen to the evidence against the ‘Arsenal Board’, a motley collection of individuals who some would say are not fit to lace the boots of Eddie McGoldrick, whoever he is. It is up to you to judge these men fairly on the evidence to be presented. Bring in the accused.

A group of old men shuffle in, followed by a younger man, who is ironically the one with the least hair. They sit down.

The RHSSH-W(d): Sit down. Oh you are. Kroenke, shut up, you talk too much. Ha ha!

Herbert Chapman (dec’d): Sir, should we, err . . .

RHSSH-W: Oh, yes Chapman, get on with it. Good man.

HC: I call Ivan Gazidis to the stand.

The bald man stands.

HC: Mr Gazidis, you are accused of taking a salary of over £2 million, including a bonus fatter than Micky Quinn, despite doing nothing to earn it. How do you plead?

Ivan Gazidis: This is a very ambitious club. We have succeeded in moving stadiums when others have failed. We are in the last phase of the move now, which is the commercial growth.

HC: Why couldn’t the commercial growth happen alongside earlier phases?

IG: I believe FFP will be good for Arsenal. All clubs want FFP, you can see that Man City and Chelsea are reining in their spending. We have had to ask fans to be patient; that period is coming to an end.

HC: You’re not answering the question, Mr Gazidis. But in any case, when did you ask them to be patient? (He turns to the jury) Does anyone here remember being asked to be patient?

(Silence.)

IG: This is a very ambitious club – the most ambitious I know. I don’t know what more people could expect of the commercial growth.

HC: Perhaps they expect to remain close to the competition, Mr Gazidis. Perhaps they expect you to increase the commercials by more than five pounds when Manchester Utd have doubled theirs.

IG: This is the most ambitious club I know.

RHSSH-W: Yes, I think we get it. Do let me know if you ever come up with any evidence for that statement, won’t you. Would anyone like to cross-examine Mr Gazidis?

Akhil (a poor and scruffy London street urchin), jumps up.

Akhil: You’re pricing out the common man! When there’s more cash coming in why can’t you freeze ticket prices?

IG: We take our responsibilities to our fans seriously. It’s not all about making money. The demand is there. This is a very ambitious club . . . inflation . . . not an easy journey . . . affordable debt . . . waiting list . . . balance . . . responsibility . . . ambition . . . attractive football . . . ambition . . . enviable Champions League record . . .

(Several minutes later) RHSSH-W jerks awake again.

RHSSH-W: Enough! Champions League record? More like a stuck record!

IG: May I just say that profit is not our target, our target is to have success on the pitch.

HC: Then why don’t you spend the vast sum that sits in the bank account paying you interest? I used to do it. It seemed to work in my day. Sign some good experienced players to mix in with the talented youngsters, and you increase your chances of winning.

No response from Gazidis. Darren (a businessman) stands.

Darren: Why can’t season ticket holders have heated seats in winter, why has it taken so long for chips to be sold on their own, and will Stan Kroenke confirm that he won’t take dividends out of Arsenal?

RHSSH-W: Mr Kroenke?

Stan Kroenke stands and starts to perform an elaborate mime that includes rubbing his hands together and blowing on them to represent the cold, pointing to his backside, peeling potatoes, frying chips and taking money from customers.

RHSSH-W: Mr Kroenke, you are required to speak.

Stan Kroenke: I’m sorry, I really don’t know why I’m here. Does anyone know what time the Rams game starts? Are we missing the build up? Is this Wembley?

HC: Mr Kroenke, do you intend to take money out of Arsenal Football Club? Money put in either directly or indirectly by fine people like those you see before you this morning?

SK: I am only sorry I didn’t invest in Arsenal earlier. (Lowers voice to stage whisper) Because the share price has doubled already.

HC: Will you take dividends?

SK: If you look at our record of owning sports clubs around the world you’ll see we never put debt on them.

HC: Will you take dividends?

SK: These kind of things are Board decisions. I have no power here.

HC: You own two thirds of the shares.

SK: Do I? I must say that surprises me.

HC: Why?

SK: Normally I own everything I can see.

HC: (wearily) Will you take dividends?

SK: I have a great record of reinvestment.

IG leaps up.

IG: He does! He does your honour! He has a sound record of reinvestment! Ambition! Attractive football!

RHSSH-W: Unwilling as I am to let anyone off the hook, I fear this line of questioning is proving unproductive. Shall we move on?

Pedro (a dandy) rises.

Pedro: I demand that my season ticket to be moved to a more fashionable part of the stadium, with Peroni on tap. And secondly, do you think, Mr Gazidis, that the introduction of FFP will allow us to complete for the world’s best players on an equal basis with our rivals?

IG: I am very optimistic about FFP. All clubs want it, ALL of them. Especially us. The game will be stronger. WE will be stronger. Everything will be rosy and there will be rainbows over London Colney on a daily basis. I’m optimistic . . . ly sceptical. Or is it sceptically optimistic? Probably both. In summary, FFP is great and almost certain to work.

Silence. Everyone looks disbelieving.

RHSSH-W: Fortunately for you we cannot yet disprove your predictions of the future. We’ll move on.

Tim (an agitator) rises.

Tim: This situation has become intolerable! The Board has lost touch! Stan out! Ivan out! Everyone out! Follow me on twitter!

RHSSH-W: Do you have a question?

Tim: Yes, I address my question to Mr Kroenke. Since your abrupt takeover of Arsenal, when you effectively stole Arsenal from the fans and supporters, you have refused to meet with any fans, something you promised to do.

IG: I’ve met with you many times.

Tim: Mr Kroenke said he would meet with fan groups. He hasn’t.

IG: But I have. That’s the same isn’t it?

SK: I have met with fan groups. I’ve met you several times, Tom.

Tim: Tim. We met before you took over, not since. Who else have you met?

SK: Well, the er . . . A . . . something. Definitely begins with A. Am I close?

IG: Look, let’s not bicker about who met who. The point is we’ve all met everyone at some point, and we’re all working together to make a profit – successful club, I mean.

Shout from the floor: “Are you working with Usmanov?”

Peter Hill-Wood: Who?

RHSSH-W: Ah, my grandson is awake! Perhaps we should question him. When I was in charge of this great club, ably built up by Mr Chapman here, we were certainly ambitious. We made this the biggest club in the world. Others who were jealous of our success called us ‘the Bank of England club’, but we were still a club rooted in our community. We welcomed our loyal supporters as shareholders. It can be done you know. Football has not changed that much. What do the Board think of the supporters now? Have you forgotten where this club came from?

Nobody speaks.

RHSSH-W: Peter, what have you got to say for yourself?

PH-W: Well I think we’re all doing a jolly fine job.

RHSSH-W: A fine job? You sold all the shares I left your father, and they have ended up with a man who doesn’t want to watch Arsenal matches and a man who isn’t welcome here! What sort of way is that to handle your legacy? I left our family as custodians of the club and you have sold its soul!

PH-W: But the supporters are such plebs, surely you don’t expect me to pay them any attention?

RHSSH-W: Peter I really think it’s time you toddled off and left the talking to the those of us who have decided to move with the times. Any more questions from the floor?

Nigel, a city gent, stands.

Nigel: I would like to congratulate the Board on their marvellous work with the finances and the squad in recent seasons. But I can’t, because I’d rather tell the truth. And the truth is you won’t spend to make this once great club great again, and you sell all our best players to strengthen our domestic and international rivals while lining your own pockets. How do I to explain to my son why Robin van Persie, last season’s captain, now plays for Manchester United?

IG: He was sold for footballing reasons! I swear! Doesn’t it demonstrate ambition to think that we can win the League without any stars? Doing it our way! The Arsenal way! You simply cannot get any more ambitious than thinking you can win everything without any good players, think about it!

RHSSH-W: Enough of this tosh. I think we should hear from Mr Chapman’s illustrious successor, Mr Wenger.

HC: Mr Wenger, is it you or is it the rest of these men sitting beside you who refuse to spend the money in the bank?

Arsène Wenger: I do not like to talk about finance, I would rather talk only about the team.

HC: Then let us do that. You won many trophies in your first seven seasons at Arsenal. It is now seven years since you won any trophy, and you have twice as many to aim for as in my day. What do you say to the charge that you are now presiding over an Arsenal team that is in worse shape than the one you inherited?

AW: I think we are in a difficult position, but we have a lot of good players and I am confident we can make a strong challenge for trophies.

HC: Let us hope so, for the sake of this club. Why are so many players injured all the time?

AW: Are they? I do not think so. Diaby is almost fit, Rosicky is almost fit. Wilshere is fully fit. Maybe not fully match fit, he is a little tired. I think at least two of our goalkeepers are able to train.

HC: Is it true you have had a falling out with your assistant, Mr Bould?  The rumour is that there was a training ground fight because you would not listen to his suggestions for improvement.

AW: I know nothing of this. If anything has happened I can only say it is like the time that Paul Ince allegedly backed into my Citroen – I did not see the Incey-dent.

Wenger claps his hands then stamps his foot on the floor and extends his arms in a ‘ta-DA!’ exclamation.

HC: I do not think this is the time for humour, Mr Wenger. The club is in a serious state. The team is in danger of sliding into mid-table with Liverpool. What do you think of the Board’s performance in all this?

AW: The Board do their job and I do mine. That is all there is to say.

PH-W stands up.

PH-W: Look this is all jolly interesting, but I promised an associate from the Daily Star that I would meet him for lunch and a chat about what a terrible bunch of miscreants and commoners the people who attend these meetings are these days . . .

The Right Honourable Sir Samuel Hill-Wood (dec’d) literally explodes with indignation, showering the Board members and the front three rows with body parts.

Tim, still an agitator, leaps up.

Tim: This is all rubbish! Bank accounts don’t win titles! Honour your pledges! Spend some money! Sack everyone!

A hail of leaflets and seat cushions are aimed at the Board. Boos ring out.

PH-W (running for the door): Thank you all for taking an interest! We’ve all had a wonderful time!

Pedro uses his embossed cigarette lighter to set fire to the curtains. The blaze quickly takes hold as more cushions and then chairs are hurled towards the front of the room. All the Board members start to back towards the door at the rear of the room, fending off missiles as they go. Someone picks up the bust of Dennis Bergkamp and holds it up to throw it. Ivan sees this and points.

IG: Look! Dennis! Dennis will save you!

For a moment everyone looks at the likeness of the great Dutchman held aloft and the hail of missiles stops. The Board and manager take the opportunity to get through the door and slam it behind them. Everyone looks round, realises they’re gone and the fire is now taking a strong hold. People rush out of the burning stadium to see a helicopter with an American flag painted on it taking off from the roof. Ivan dangles from a rope beneath it.

Everyone goes home and comes back on Saturday as usual.

*    *    *

Twitter: @AngryOfN5

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17 thoughts on “‘The Trial Of The Arsenal Board’ – A Farce In One Act

  1. LOOOL… I’m in stitches, this is the funniest stuff I’ve read in a while, didn’t think anything Arsenal related could make me laugh after yesterday’s (non)performance.
    But the picture painted in this write up is the Picasso of what’s happening at Arsenal at the moment. At this rate we’re becoming a Liverpool. WE WANT OUR ARSENAL BACK!!!

  2. Great new 150M shirt deal to match the best new stadium and training ground in the country. Thirteenth (unmatched outside of Barcelona) qualification for the final stages of the CL. Only team in England still in four tournaments this season – I agree. Arsene and the board are doing a VERY nice job.

    • @Bergkamp…..and dont forget the 7 (8 after this season) trophyless seasons with the football getting more boring and predictable every week and AW coming up with the same drivel week after week…..This team could be still in 40 tournaments but WILL NOT win any of them!The phrase ‘rose tinted glasses’ springs to mind!

  3. Bergkamps the man,Spurs have the best new training ground,Real Madrid have qualified for more than 13 consecutive knock out stages ( if any RM manager or President bragged about it they would be hounded out of the Bernebeu,remind me how many times we have won the CL),to say we are still in the title race is straw clutching,and anyway Chelsea are still in 4 touraments with the Europa league.Still lets pat Ivan on the back for renegotiating a deal with an existing sponsor at current market rate( will be hilarious when everyone is getting 50 mill a season from 2016) and please can we keep Wenger for another 16 yrs,thanks.

  4. Why do fans love to trot out the “bank of England club” line, while ignoring the fact that said “custodians” – each and every one of them – all chose to exit the club, not by donating their shares to Arsenal Supporters trust, but rather by cashing in to a MASSIVE degree. All of them: Dein, Fiszman, Bracewell, Hill-Wood etc. All cashed out of their positons at massive profit.

    And AST for its own part, did not put up money to buy said shares. I’m sure there are some very wealthy fans among their number but none of them stumped up the half billion or so it would have taken to get control of the club.

    So other people bought the club and hey they expect to make their money back. What a crime. It’s all fine and well to accuse current ownership of playing it too conservative, but hey it’s THEIR money on the line, not yours. Lots of it. Where you lot talked, they WALKED. And unlike said “custodians” they dont pretend that balancing the books is not an objective.

    Do you all not understand by now that the reason Fisman and were so stingy on wages – famously losing out on Ashley Cole for the grand sum of 5,000 per week – was they they wanted to make the club’s financial accounts look as attractive as possible to the people who would BUY it from themie they were maximizing their cash-out potential, not the club’s trophy winning potential. And they were the ones who willingly de-constructed the “Invincibles” and turned the club into a property company Saturday sport entertainment line on the side?

    Major case of denial going on here…..

    • If you are saying that Stanley was taken for bit of a ride by Danny & Co, I am inclined to agree. Even so, if it hadn’t been for Mr U he would have become sole owner – and then heaven knows where he would have taken the Club in pursuit of profit. Should we feel sorry for him, and meekly accept a second rate future for our Club under his ownership? Or should we let him know that taking on a Club of Arsenal’s stature, tradition and history is an obligaton, a duty to continue the story, add more glory. If he doesn’t understand that right now, then he will certainly come to understand it very soon.

      • Someone was taken for a ride, yes: the small set of Arsenal fans who contitnue to view Dein-Fisman-Bracewell as “custodians”. They literally sold you out. And you’re still wallowing in delusion.

        As best as I can detect from the current situation, Kroenke has built a defacto control position quite cheaply. Which is why the Uzbek is hanging about like a bad penny.

        Ghengis Khan is no charity operator either, unless you count his efforts to enrich DD. Nor has he donated his shares to Arsenal supporters trust. So anyone posing this situation through fanboy eyes is being suckered.

        Its 2012, not 1912. The club has been commercialized and cashed in by Dein and Fisman. The rest is simply playing itself out. But anyone who isnt putting their money on the line buying Arsenal shares is purely…..well….a spectator (there’s a surprise!). Stop wasting time on any pretext to the contrary.

    • your posts on the subject are beginning to move from grating to offensive. I don’t know if you are just a new fan or something more sinister – the fact you sound American could make you either, but some lines shouldn’t be crossed.

      Danny Fiszman (thats the correct spelling) was an Arsenal fan. He put his money where his mouth was by financing the Bergkamp/Platt deals as well as improved contracts for the likes of Tony Adams and Ian Wright.

      His spending made sure the decline of the final Graham year was a blip, and that AFC remained a trophy winning force. Slightly different from the approach your wig-wearing mate SK takes.

      Yes, he fell out with DD (the man with the vision to propel this club forward) and then sold to Kroenke on his deathbed. The latter was clearly a mistake, possibly (probably?) motivated by the rift with DD, but for you to accuse him as someone whose prime motive was to make a huge profit out of Arsenal is very offensive. For starters he could have maximised returns for his family by selling to AU. I would imagine he would regret that if he could see what grubby down-market Walmart hands his club has ended up in.

      • You’ve failed to grasp my point, clearly because you’re hell bent on setting to false “opposing” camps and putting me in one of them.

        I didn’t say Fisman’s ONLY motivation was money. I said he clearly saw the club as first and foremost a commercial business and not some rose-tinted fairytale community club. That’s why he SOLD shares when he could easily have donated them to AST. And once he sold, one cannot berate the buyer for grinding out a return on their huge investment. Not are the current shareholders the ones who commercialised the club- for that again you know who floated the club shares on the market. How many charities have you seen floated? There’s a hint for you.

        I’ve no interest in being a fanboy for either Kroenke or Usmanov. But there is a large group of fans completely oblivious to the fact that this is Act 2 in the club’s history as a money machine. And they ate rewriting history to avoid acknowledging who set Act 1 on play.

        Now why not a parody on the meeting in which Fiszman and Dein refused to pay the paltry sum of 5000 quid a week and in the act, delivered an Arsenal youth academy product and a full England International to their chief premiership rivals in return for William “Sitdown Strike” Gallas and a pocketful of coins. And this precipitated presumably by Ashley having the temerity to hire representation that did not go by the initials DD. Say what you like about Gazdis and his compensation, but at least he isn’t sitting at the negotiating table with an Arsenal cheque book in one hand and his son receiving it on the other side of the table.

        Hilarious that one….especially as Ashley Cole alone has since won more honours than the entite Arsenal squad – but yes let’s just all pretend this trouble all began when foreigners turned up in the Arsenal boardroom.

  5. Superb piece, old school sarcasm
    Oh me, how did we got to this stage Arsenal?
    I blame Arsene’s 1st seven years on all this …..

  6. Very, very, very funny – thanks. But not sure why a relatively youngish bloke with no hair should be viewed as “ironic” – unfortunate/unlucky yes (unless of course he has the sort of neat/sort of girlish head-shape that could carry it off), and don’t worry you haven’t touched a nerve, I’m one of the hairiest blokes I know – all ends up.
    Particularly enjoyed the way you snuck in a classic Pedro typo “FFP will allow us to complete for the world’s best players on an equal basis with our rivals?” Hahaha – nice one.
    And thought you captured Ivan’s nascent reptilian PR drivel with aplomb. Bravo!

  7. Anyone interested in actual facts should read this article below. I mean read the ARTICLE not just the headline and into by useless subeditors:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/dec/02/borussia-dortmund-premier-league

    And then go ask yourself why Fisman and Dein and Bracewell CHOSE not to turn over the club to the fans. There WERE solutions (as shown in the article) that did not involve cashing out like bandits and chucking the blame for the inevitable subsequent decisions. Some great “custodians” they were…

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