Talkin' Bout An Evolution
Whilst Arsenal`s form has wilted somewhat in the brighter months, a great many have been appealing for the winds of change to blow through the Marble Halls. Frustrated by our genuine ignorance of matters behind the closed doors of London Colney and within the oak panelled boardrooms of Highbury House, many a suggestion has been put forward is the bona fide answer to our travails. New defensive coaches (even though we have about a billion ex-defenders in our coaching repertoire already), new medical staff, a new board, a different captain, a new philosophy, some even want a new manager. There is even a supporter march (or "walk" as the group responsible are insisting it be called) prior to the Aston Villa home game. Amongst the rather diffuse and sometimes mawkish aims of the "walk" is to challenge the club`s commercial strategies.
In my opinion, the "walk" is merely impotent willy waving. Though the group responsible insist it`s not a "Wenger out" march, one has to wonder if it`d be going ahead were we still in the title race, or even if we had the Carling Cup tucked snugly under our arms. Don`t get me wrong, all forms of affirmative action should be encouraged when necessary, members of my family and I (though in truth, I was too young to genuinely understand the issue) chanted "We love Arsenal you don`t" with thousands of others at Arsenal`s white knight David Dein when the Bond Scheme was foisted upon us in the early 90s. But I do wonder if we are the first ever football club to march on the stadium because of front loaded sponsorship contracts.
But the Black Scarf walk is by the by, it seems without their intervention, the cool breeze of evolution is blowing through the club anyway. Ownership of the club has changed hands so recently that the official documentation is still in transit. It rather beggars belief to protest on an owner who hasn`t even snagged a neat arse grove in his Governor`s chair. This morning, the line up for this summer`s Emirates Cup was announced. The attraction of seeing the return of Thierry Henry in a New York Red Bulls shirt will doubtless get tickets selling quite nicely, with Gazidis and Kroenke`s MLS connections; I`m sure the invitational phone call was a quick and easy one. But within the announcement was the slightly less eye catching statement;
"Coinciding with the announcement of the line-up for this year`s tournament, Arsenal Football Club is also delighted to announce that a three year extension has been signed with Emirates Airline, as title sponsor of the Emirates Cup until 2013.
As well as the contract extension with Emirates Airline, Arsenal has also signed a five year agreement with MP & Silva to distribute the broadcast rights to the tournament. These two new arrangements reflect the rapid growth of the Emirates Cup which is now considered the world`s leading pre-season tournament."
It seems Stan has wasted no time! Given his connections with media and broadband, such developments were always likely. But that`s effectively two commercial contracts updated and he`s not officially in situ yet. Word on the grapevine from the Arsenal Supporters Trust is also that Arsenal TV Online will undergo a long overdue upgrade this summer (and the club are considering giving free subscription to season ticket holders). Since Kroenke owns 50% of Arsenal Broadband Ltd, it`s again, probably not a huge surprise that this is one of the first areas to be addressed in expanding our commercial revenues. In thisexcellent piece by Swiss Ramble on Kroenke, it is pointed out that when he takes ownership of a sports team, the media revenues are usually the first to swell.
As well as boardroom changes, it seems the coaching staff will likely undergo some change this summer. It`s the worst kept secret at the club at the moment that Pat Rice will probably retire at the end of the season, with his contract at an end and, at the age of 62 with a knee nack, he won`t take the option to extend. The whisper in the corridor is that ex Arsenal defender Gilles Grimandi has impressed with his work as a scout for the club in the French leagues and is already being groomed as Arsene`s Dr. Watson. Others suggest that Steve Bould`s work as under-18s Manager may have earned him a promotion. Outside bets include Martin Keown. (Well, he`s an ex Arsenal centre half; which seems to be marked "essential" in the capability framework). Boro Primorac is already said to be semi-retired too. All top clubs undergo gentle evolution; those that find themselves ripping up and starting again completely have either fallen from grace or are about to. It seems Arsenal`s inevitable cycle is about to change its tyres. As Bob Dylan once crooned; "don't speak too soon/ For the wheel's still in spin/ And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'." LD.
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