Hill-Wood doesn’t expect Arsenal to spend big as Wenger & Co prepare for Plymouth

This is a guest post by sportswriter Thomas Rooney

It was thought by many that this current transfer window would see a change for Arsenal. Many believed that the club would spend big this month to accommodate for injuries and to try and help the team force their way back into the top four of the Premier League.

However, speaking about the Gunners options in the coming weeks, Peter Hill-Wood has revealed that Arsene Wenger will not be splashing the cash – far from it. Instead, the Arsenal chairman says that the club has got to be ‘run in a sensible way’.

This is fair enough I suppose. No Arsenal fan wants the club’s future finances put in jeopardy because of one massive spending spree. However, can we not expect a bit more transfer activity than usual?

Well, from what Hill-Wood had to say, it seems not. He said that there is ‘not a lot of money anywhere’ in football at the moment and that this will restrict what Arsenal spends in the coming weeks.

The chairman finished by saying that he had faith in the ‘young, talented players at the club’ to make sure that the second half to Arsenal’s season is a successful one. He also hinted that a couple of the younger players, who hadn’t been given much of a game as yet, will get their chance before long.

The fact that Arsenal have talented youngsters cannot be argued – everyone knows that. However, the team is in a situation right now where there is a distinct possibility that it could miss out on Champions League football next season. Is the young talent enough to get out of this predicament?

My personal opinion is that one or two big name signings wouldn’t do any harm. Even if it was the two players that have already been linked – Mikel Arteta and Shay Given. They would both provide valuable experience amongst the Arsenal team.

The thing is, £20m would be needed to prize these two away from their current clubs and going by what Hill-Wood has had to say – this just isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, enough about that! A more immediate issue is that of the FA Cup third round tie against Plymouth tomorrow. The Championship side travel to the Emirates in hope rather than expectation and in all honesty, it should be a comfortable win for Wenger’s men.

As Barnsley proved last season though, anything can happen in the FA Cup, so Arsenal shouldn’t take their opposition lightly. It should be treated like any other game and concentration levels should be as high as ever.

It will be interesting to see what team Wenger puts out, but I would imagine that it will be as strong as possible. Arsenal can’t afford to be knocked out at this stage, after all.

As far as the omens are concerned, everything is in favour of a home win. Plymouth have never beaten Arsenal, they have lost their last three away games and have failed to score in four on the road. Perhaps most significantly though, they lost to eventual winners Portsmouth last season – so perhaps that will happen again this year!

Let’s hope so. Arsenal fans could do with a trophy.

Board changes at Arsenal

The most recent news coming from the Arsenal boardroom is that there are a few changes underway.

Lady Nina, who owns 15.9% of the club is leaving the Board, and the club, after a family association of over 50 years. She is now free from the lockdown agreement which the Board members entered into, and is free to sell her shares in the club.

As the third largest shareholder this is worrying, and it seems likely that she will sell, although whether to Board members, or to Red & White Holdings remains to be seen.

As well as Lady Nina leaving, Richard Carr who owns 4.4% will step down from Director, a position he has held for 27 years.

This is all part of the long term changes which began when Dein left the club, and new holders like Usmanov and Kronke have come in. It is not known the terms on which Lady Nina left but there are hints that there is some unrest at Board level.

As ever Hill-Wood wants to keep us stable and self-sufficient. It remains to be seen if this is possible.

Who owns Arsenal:
Directors’ collective shareholding 41.8%
Daniel Fiszman 24.1%
Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith 15.9%
Richard Carr 4.4%

Peter Hill-Wood (chairman) 0.8%
Lord Harris of Peckham 0.09%
Ken Friar 0.07%
Sir Chips Keswick 0.06%
Keith Edelman 0.04%
Others: Red & White Holdings 24%; Stan Kroenke 12.4%
Remaining shares: approximately 1,200 minor shareholders.

Table edited from the Telegraph

Gunnerblog has views and excerpts from Wenger’s recent webchat with fans here.

Also on Sunday against Liverpool wear Yellow! We want to commemorate the title winning season at Anfield 20 years ago, and REDaction has come up with this idea. Newsletters were passed out at the Wigan game, and Arsenal.com has endorsed it too, so it would be great to see a yellow stadium on Sunday.

Kronke joins the Board as Arsenal’s profits announced

Stan Kroenke, an American shareholder has joined the Board as a non-executive director. He owns a 12% stake in the club and Arsenal say he was invited in because of his experience in managing sports businesses and in expanding financial prospects.

The BBC reports:

“His firm Kroenke Sports Enterprises (KSE), owns the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey team and Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids.”

It’s an interesting move, but one which I thought was likely. It makes sense for the Board to try and recruit a sensible ally if they are to maintain any control over the club from outside investors such as Usmanov.

They are pre-empting any takeover by forming an alliance with Kroenke, which also protects them from buyouts, as Kroenke now has agreed not to sell his 12% without consulting the Board.

This news comes as Arsenal announced a £36.7 million pre-tax profit for the year ending May ’08, rising more than £10m over the previous year’s profits.

Turnover was also up, from £200.8m to £223m, the move to the Emirates, and lucrative TV sponsorship are cited as major factors.

Peter Hill-Wood, the Chairman told the press:

“This club is ambitious for success and I believe that the strong financial position which the group has established, as confirmed by the results for the year, provides the best possible platform from which to deliver that success for the long-term,

“We are committed to operating the club as a business which is financially self-sustaining. This is clearly demonstrated having achieved our second highest ever pre-tax profit of £36.7m.

“Over the last two seasons Emirates Stadium has taken our football revenues to a new level, but we cannot be complacent. Accordingly, we recognise the need to further develop the business commercially on a worldwide basis.

“We have reported significant growth in turnover to £223m reflecting a growth in our core football business. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, new Premier League domestic and overseas TV deals have led to a rise in broadcasting income of £24.1m to £68.4m, and secondly, matchday income was £94.6m and remained the most important component of the Group’s income.”

“We moved to Emirates Stadium in order to compete with top European sides, not only on a financial footing but from a footballing perspective,” he added. “The healthy financial returns from moving to the Emirates are the fruits of our labour so far, but just as important is the team’s performances at our new home.

“Given that we have only lost one match in 58 competitive matches since moving here in 2006, Emirates is certainly becoming the fortress that Highbury once was.”

“The most significant factor is the new TV deal which has increased income by just over £24m. In addition, the inaugural Emirates Cup which we hosted in 2007 brought in £4m.”

On transfer funds, Hill-Wood had this to say:

“In answer to your question, yes funds will always be made available to Arsene to improve the quality of the squad and we have consistently stated that adequate funds are available to him if needed.

“We maintain a constant dialogue with Arsène and whilst there is not a set figure in place we are always able to buy additional players should he choose to buy. We have every confidence in Arsène and trust in his judgment, so he decides whether he needs to strengthen his squad.

“The accounts which we have released today show that the Group had cash balances of some £93m at 31st May 2008. This is clearly a very healthy position from which to support the manager’s spending plans.

“However, it must be recognised that £31.5m of this cash is held as security for the debt service of our Bonds and its use is therefore restricted, also there is a strong degree of seasonality to our cash flow with season ticket renewals during May having a positive impact on the year- end cash figure.”

“We have every confidence in Arsene and trust his judgment. It is not about spending a specific amount of money, it is about investing in the right people. It’s about having the right players with the right quality and the right spirit. People easily forget that we were not too far off winning some silverware last season. The margins are so small.

“We may have a young squad but they are talented and have one more year’s experience. They are managed exceptionally well by Arsene and we have every confidence that they will have a successful season.

“We strongly believe that to compete at the highest levels of professional football the club has to have a viable business that can pay its own way. We strongly believe this is the only way in the long-term.”

So, in summary, the move to the Emirates has been crucial in building financial strength, so now we can compete with the best in Europe. Wenger has money available and the backing of the board. In our current situation we can survive as a business which can pay it’s own way – i.e. no big investors like Abramovich!

Hill-Wood can’t deny shareholders in a market economy + Dein is off.

Peter Hill-Wood the Arsenal chairman has spoken out about possible takovers at Arsenal FC.

He sensibly made the point that the Board don’t want to sell, they want to keep the club as it is, but in a market economy, if someone will buy ath the right price, you can’t stop shareholders from selling.

“If somebody came and made a really huge bid then you cannot recommend shareholders turn it down because we don’t like it.

“We want the club to stay in its current ownership and, of course, you have some concern that someone will try to buy the club.

“The directors don’t want to sell but we are a public company. It depends on the price.”

This is nothing more than stating the obvious, so I wouldn’t worry too much, it is just the media getting a story off the back of the Man City takeover.

Of course if someone bids a massive amount of money then shareholders are allowed to sell. Luckily the Board are currently in a lockdown agreement, which means that the biggest shareholders aren’t allowed to sell their chunks of the club.

The main contender is Usmanov, who has something like a 24% stake, he only needs 30% to be able to launch a takeover bid. The lockdown agreement makes this very hard for him to do.

I don’t want to see Arsenal sold to a foreign owner, I like the way the club is run and I think we can be successful without a foreign billionaire bankrolling the club and overruling the manager on many matters.

You only have to look at Chelsea – Mourinho sacked, Shevchenko saga, or Man City – Sven outrageously sacked – to see what unstability such oligarchs can create.

In a related story, David Dein, the man who was helping Usmanov in his bid to buy the club, has stepped down from his role at Red & White Holdings. According to the Daily Mail he has done this to improve Usmanov’s relationship with the club.

“Dein realises that there is now no chance of Usmanov having the type of input into Arsenal — and a possible seat on the board — his shareholding merits while the former Arsenal vice-chairman remains so closely tied to him, such is the hostility towards Dein.”

Dein believes that Arsenal need a billionaire owner to compete in the modern world of football, I think that he realises that his relationship with Arsenal is bad, and Usmanov is better off without him.

I have mixed feelings about the guy, he has done a lot of good for the club, but seems to have gone off the rails slightly. I would imagine that he will still have some level of involvement with Usmanov, but not in the public sphere.

Hill-Wood slams greed while Sagna signs on like a good boy

Arsenal have rewarded Bacary Sagna with a new contract until 2014. The news came out a few days ago but we now know the length of the deal.

“I love Arsenal, they are a great club. The manager is also very good and next season we will be fighting for all the trophies.”

Sagna is definitely the best right-back in the Premiership and was our top signing last summer. In typical Wenger style, he arrived with little furore and proceeded to play amzingly all season.

The fact that we have renewed his contract after just one season at the club is good, it means we can hold onto a top player, but it also reveals the state of the transfer system at the moment.

With players like Hleb being linked away from the club with this Webster Clause and others like Flamini leaving, it seems that we are putting in a concerted effort to keep the team together and happy in their contracts. I have no problem with this, but it does show that the club is a bit more wary of loyalty issues now.

Peter Hill-Wood made comments about the same issue, speaking harshly about the lack of loyalty which is present in football these days:

“Nowadays, a lot of people sign four-year contracts and you heave a sigh of relief. Six months later they come marching in saying they want double the wages.
“The only answer is to tell them they are on that contract and that’s it. Unless you do that, the game will become chaotic and descend into anarchy.

“I think there are very few people who have really got the tradition of the club at heart. You can name them on one hand. Actually I can’t name them on one hand and that’s a great pity.”

“In the old days money was not the big driving force. Nobody was greedy. People didn’t come marching in for pay rises, be they executives, senior managers, players, whatever. People weren’t motivated by the money. They liked the job, they liked the club and they wanted to go to work in the morning. Everyone has become much more materialistic.

“I think that is one of the reasons why Arsene [Wenger] signs younger players. OK, they will probably walk out in five years but at least he has the opportunity to mould them. But some of the so-called stars have got their own ideas about what should happen and don’t always agree with what we think.”

“We are going to go on this way. We are not going to be diverted. We are not going to spend £100 million,”

This is apparent in players like Flamini and possibly Hleb. I am all for sticking to our guns and doing things the way we have been doing them. Arsenal as a club know that we are not like the Chelseas of this world and we don’t have to spend oceans of money to be the best in the league.

Click here for more Arsenal News!

PHW prefers Kroenke as Arsenal push for stability

Stan Kroenke is likely to be invited to join the Arsenal Board.

The American investor has a 12% share in Arsenal. It seems that the Board have realised if we don’t get him on our side then we will have to face Usmanov, who owns 25% and is pushing to get a blocking stake in the club.

Hill-Wood had this to say:

“Contrary to what I said before, I now believe he may have a vital contribution to make to the future of this football club. I am not denying I said what I said, but I made those observations before meeting Stan. I have now got to know him and I have changed my opinions.

“When I hadn’t met him, yes, I didn’t think he was the right person to take control of Arsenal Football Club. Now I know him as a man who is very much steeped in sport. He is a sports man. He already has a link through our broadband rights and there is every reason to expect that we shall discuss further how his involvement can be extended,”

I think this is definitely a tactical move on Hill-Wood’s part. We would all rather have no interest from these people, but if you have to choose one, choose the one who looks less threatening.

With Kroenke on their side the Board may be able to more effectively fend off Usmanov, whilst keeping control over Kroenke.

This issue is a thorny one, we have seen the problems with foreign ownership at Man City this season, with Eriksson on his way out after the club’s best season in years. The Board will have to be very careful in how they handle this, because it could end badly.

Wenger Will Be Able To Spend This Summer

Peter Hill-Wood, the Arsenal chairman says that money will be available for Wenger to bolster the squad this summer. Which is good, especially if players like Hleb leave.

“We have never denied Arsene Wenger a penny, whenever he has wanted to buy, he has. What he is not prepared to do is to buy a big name that everyone will be happy with until they see them play.

“He has brought in so many world-class players, some of whom people had not even heard of at the time, and I am sure he will continue that.”

Hill-Wood went on to comment on our season:

“He {Wenger} is not very happy we didn’t win anything. He takes it very much to heart but he seems to have recovered.”It’s laughable to think he doesn’t have the support of the board. We are very happy with him and I think he is with us.

“Overall, it’s not been a bad season. I was very happy with the way we played, but we are in the results business and I’m disappointed with the final result, I suppose.

“We will start next season with the aim of winning something. If we don’t, I will not be jumping off Tower Bridge. It’s not easy winning the Champions League and the Premier League.”

A very balanced opinion if you ask me, and quite correct. Wenger is a fantastic manager, and the board knows he is good in the transfer market, and that he can achieve success. He has done it before and can do it again.

It’s not easy, but we have the potential to win a lot of trophies in the next few years. It’s good to hear the Board are on the same wavelength.

One issue with signing foreign players now will be their level of English. Under new government legislation non-European footballers who can’t speak English won’t be able to join teams. This is part of the new points-based immigration system.

Migrants will have to pass an English test to check they have “basic-user standard” English, using familiar everyday expressions, and be able to discuss basic personal details!

Do you think this legislation will affect Arsenal?

Edelman Leaves Arsenal, Money Matters

Arsenal are the third most valuble club in the world according to Forbes, they value at:

1.Man United at £905m ($1,800m)

2.Real at £646m ($1,285m)

3.Arsenal at £603m ($1,200m)

Moving to Ashburton Grove has played a big part in this, and the man behind much of the move has been Keith Edelman MD at the club since 2000.

Keith has left the Arsenal after 8 years at the club. He had this to say:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Arsenal. It has been a very exciting period for the business and I am proud to have contributed to the Club’s many off-field achievements over the past eight years, not least the Emirates Stadium project. Now that we have completed our second season at Emirates, I believe it is the right time to seek pastures new and embark upon fresh challenges.”

Peter Hill-Wood said:

“Keith has played a major role in the growth of the Club since he joined in 2000. In that time we have successfully implemented the move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium that has underpinned the future of the business and confirmed our position as one of Europe’s leading clubs. We are grateful to Keith for his crucial role in this transformation.

“Under Keith’s stewardship the Club has achieved record profits and the Board owes him a debt of gratitude for his contribution. We wish him the very best for the future.”

Ken Friar, the previous MD, now becomes Acting Managing Director. There are some conspiracy theories concerning Red & Shite Holdings, and Dein’s involovement, but I think the case is more that Edelamn has done the job he was brought in to do.