This is a question people have asked me when I’m cautious about accepting Mr Usmanov as owner of Arsenal. Stan is useless, they say. Usmanov is bound to be better. Look what Abramovich has done for Chelsea.
Yes. The problem here is that we don’t know what Usmanov would do until he is put in a position where he can do it. Until then it’s all talk. As I highlighted a few blog posts ago, Usmanov has talked about his vision, but not actually promised anything. Bear in mind also that at the moment there is a certain balance because Kroenke is restricted in what he can do by virtue of the fact he has less than 75 per cent of the total number of shares. If he sells to Usmanov, the Uzbek will have about 97 per cent of the shares; he will be able to do exactly what he wants.
So here’s a very brief random list off the top of my head of how Usmanov could be worse as an owner than Kroenke. Stan has not done (and in some cases can’t do) any of these:
1. Usmanov could start taking money out of the club by way of dividends or management fees (as at Man Utd)
2. He could sack the manager and install any idiot – Harry Redknapp, Mark Hughes (other clubs have seen fit to employ these no-hopers) – or he could just pick the team himself (Abramovich sometimes seems to be halfway to this).
3. He could sack the Board and install any bunch of idiots – Dennis Wise, Ken Bates – both of whom have had boardroom jobs – Piers Morgan . . .
4. He could pile debt onto the club (also as the Glazers did at Man U).
5. He could sell the freehold to the stadium to one of his own companies and rent it back (other clubs have done the same).
6. Ditto the training ground.
7. He could raise ticket prices 20 per cent a year, or any amount he likes (Man City have raised prices a lot, to try and boost the balance sheet ahead of FFP).
8. He could force the remaining small shareholders, including Fanshare, to sell their shares to him, take the club private and reduce accountability to fans from minimal to absolute zero (Abramovich again, and others).
9. He could change the home kit to white shirts and blue shorts and the away kit to blue shirts and white shorts, or whatever combination he likes (Cardiff’s owners have changed the colours).
Some of these, or variations of them, are far less likely than others, but they are all perfectly possible.
You may say, “Why should he do any of these? He’s a fan.” Well he says he is, and from information I have he has certainly attended more matches this season than Stan Kroenke, both home and away. But so what? Everyone on the Board, and the ex-members like David Dein, claims to be a fan, but it hasn’t stopped them selling their shares for profit to themselves and no benefit to Arsenal, even Peter Hill-Wood, whose family have led Arsenal from the Boardroom for about half its existence.
I take any claims of fandom with a large pinch of salt, particularly as Red & White have put out communications saying ‘we’ are Arsenal supporters, while Usmanov’s 50-50 partner in Red & White, Farhad Moshiri, is known to be a Man Utd fan. So I don’t know who they’re talking about with this ‘we’.
The fact is we don’t know how Usmanov would behave as Arsenal owner. Maybe he’d be fantastic; maybe we’d win trophies every year and pay peanuts for season tickets. Maybe. But could he be worse than Stan Kroenke? Oh yes.
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