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AST Meeting- Lowdown

As you may well have seen or read in the press, the Arsenal Supporters` Trust met last night and the gathering has attracted some press interest. There`ll be a lot of supposition and innuendo floating around, so having attended myself, I will attempt to succinctly bullet point the main points raised.

The first thing to say though is that the AST does not deign to speak for every Arsenal supporter- just its membership. Which is why these meetings are conducted. The AST board has meetings with Ivan Gazidis and with the ticketing director on next season`s ticketing strategy later this week. The purpose of this meeting was to gather the feelings of members before feeding it back to the club. It`s not a Masonic attempt to take the club over or megalomaniacal rabble rousing. The Trust represents the interests of small shareholders and asks the club questions.

The first point of order, was to gather members` opinions on ticketing for 2012-13.

- AST meeting with Ivan Gazidis on Wednesday. Gazidis has expressly asked for feedback from the AST`s membership.
- AST will push for ticket exchange to become much more efficient and user friendly in an attempt to lessen the occurrences of empty seats at home matches.
- AST will propose introducing a credit system for home games, as it currently exists with away games. So if your seat is used for a home game, you obtain 1 credit.
- Membership was polled by a show of hands and the (vast) majority of AST members did not feel another price rise would be justified for next season. (DUUUUH!) Has been suggested that small rises every season may be favourable to freezes followed by big jumps in prices.
- Members largely felt that, in the event that Arsenal are in next season`s Europa League, the club should take an imaginative approach to how cup credits are allocated. For many years, Arsenal season tickets have included 7 home cup credits, which include Champions League and F.A. Cup home ties. Some members felt that they wouldn`t want to attend Europa League home matches. However, the suggestion seemed to be that the club should keep the 7 cup credits to include Europa League, but to take a flexible approach to pricing those individual home ties according to the prestige of the opposition.
- Arsenal are virtually neck and neck with Manchester United as the biggest accumulators of ticket revenue in the world. So ticketing is a huge issue for the club. Gate receipts account for most of the revenue the club makes.
- Last summer, roughly 1 in 4 people on the waiting list that were offered season tickets took them up.

Arsenal will release their six monthly figures for the period up to 30 November 2011 some time later this week. The absolute latest they can release them is next Tuesday, 28th February.

- Debt on stadium is currently at around £230m and being paid on schedule.
- Arsenal have the 4th highest wage bill (around £130m) in the Premiership, therefore 4th place should be their target. Anything more is overperforming, anything lower is underperforming.
- The slight majority of members polled were of the impression that the manager has money available to spend but chooses not to. Many feel that the board are withholding funds from him. The AST doesn`t know which is true.
- Once all funds from last summer`s trading is realised (very few big transfer fees are paid upfront) Arsenal made a profit of somewhere between £14-15m.
- AST calculates that there`s probably around £60m in the cash reserves available for spending on salaries and transfers. The club have indicated that`s probably a slightly generous estimation due to agents` fees and loyalty payments. (For instance, Thomas Vermaelen signed a new contract in the accounting period. It`s quite likely, though not confirmed, that he was given a loyalty payment upfront). Actual figure is probably closer to £50m. The AST estimates failure to qualify for the Champions League would cost the club around £45m.
- AST will take 3 main questions to Gazidis this week. 1- Are funds being withheld from the manager? 2- Is wage spend as efficient as it could possibly be? 3- Will we be protected by FPP if the club makes losses?
- Arsenal`s wages to income spend currently sits at around 52% of revenue. The Premiership average is closer to 85%. Arsenal currently have 71 players on the wage bill.
- Alisher Usmanov is closing in on a 30% stake in the club. Refer to AST Board member Phil Wall`s blog here on what exactly that means.
- AST continues to ask the question as to whether a Rights Issue is a viable short term cash boost to cover the shortfall currently experienced in under market value commercial deals.
- Questions will be asked around football governance. Who is accountable for the academy and for scouting for instance?
- The perception is that the board are unwilling to take input from Red & White Holdings, headed by Alisher Usmanov.
- The AST have asked David Dein to attend a meeting of its members. He has been reluctant to do so because he does not want to field questions about the manager.

Those were the main points covered. A good deal of the meeting- indeed its raison d`etre, was to field the opinions of its members. The bullet points above largely constitute information I heard from the AST board, usually in answer to questions from the floor. Largely, opinions pronounced from the floor have been left out of this piece. Remember, don`t shoot the messenger either! Just relaying what I heard. My opinions on any of the above points are excluded. That's what the comments section is for! LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday February 21 2012

Time: 11:49AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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I look forward to hearing the answer to the direct question of whether or not funds are being withheld from the manager, or at the very least the reaction to the question. I doubt very much Gazidis would say funds were being with-held, but the answer he gives and his phsyological responses could give us more of a clue. If Wenger is covering for the suits then I'm not sure I could forgive them for aiding with the sullying of his name.
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21/02/2012 12:08:00

When does the AST expect to get answers?
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21/02/2012 13:51:00

When does the AST expect to get answers?
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21/02/2012 13:51:00

Thanks for taking the time to write that up.
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21/02/2012 14:05:00

LD very much appreciate you feeding back on this. I would be surprised if Gazidis admitted funds are being withheld. He will mumble, as he has no doubt in previous meetings, something about financial management, that Wenger has full knowledge of the situation, and that he has money to spend. Next question.
Wyn Mills
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21/02/2012 17:31:00

I don't think Gazidis will directly answer the 1st 2 questions and the we all know the answer to the 3rd question. We've heard before that the business model has taken into account the possibility of non-CL football, although we will no longer make a profit if we dont get CL action. I hope that the club at least does an internal evaluation of the 2nd question (on efficiency of the wage bill) even if they don't answer the question. Next year, revenue might fall with no CL revenue, but wages will remain the same which means that the 52% wage to turnover ratio might increase to 58-60% which is not sustainable. The wage bill produced by the club for the 1st half will not include Denilson, Bendtner and the loanees since their wages are being paid by other clubs. There is a clear case to rationalize the wage structure, and I only hope that the club does something about it.
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21/02/2012 18:23:00

Tend to think you're right Wyn. It's not actually known how much of Denilson and Bendtner's wages we're paying
Little Dutch
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21/02/2012 19:02:00

The link to Alisher USmanov 30% shares is dead. I would like to read it. Is there another link? Also what do you guys think, if Usmanov takes over the club? WOuld he replace Wenger? Would wenger like his style of management to stay put? Would Usmanov preassure Wneger so much on producing results?
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22/02/2012 02:56:00

Also I've wanted Usmanov takeover from the beginning, instead of Kraoenke, Now its evident, hes only in for the money, and is happy if the club doesnt win anything as long as his shares value goes up.
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22/02/2012 02:57:00

You think Usmanov wuldn't want that? The guy's already said he'd reintroduce dividends. Usmanov may give us short term success, unlikely to do anything other than asset strip in the long term. In any case, this is the link again
Little Dutch
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22/02/2012 08:00:00

So Usanov's had dialogue with people telling them he'd reintroduce divs? Link anywhere?
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22/02/2012 11:45:00

He told the media about 18 months ago in an interview that he would. I'll try and find a link.
Little Dutch
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22/02/2012 12:09:00 Doesn't really cover it, if he did say that, at least he's being more vanilla than this effin yank we know nothing about apart from his mediocre sports teams.
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22/02/2012 12:31:00

What do we actually know? Do we know that money's being creamed off the top to line owners' pockets? If there are no dividend pay-outs, I don't see how that could be? One thing's for sure, we absolutely cannot know what Usmanov would have done, or would do if he bought the club tomorrow.
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22/02/2012 12:47:00

I think to do that it would be ridiculously short sighted Damiano, if he has a money making strategy it will be to keep as tighter budget as possible and selling up. Management fees are a no no at the moment as well (higlighted in the link), but not what the threshold is.
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22/02/2012 13:39:00

So money isn't being 'removed' right now, but you fear that it's being stockpiled so Kroenke can sell the club for lots of money, based on its profitability?
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22/02/2012 14:28:00

yes - although I fear more that he thinks we can keep on competing for CL spot with a threadbare budget and a manager who works miracles in doing it, this can't go on for ever.
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22/02/2012 15:18:00

To suggest Usmanov as a preferable option is desperation and panic (not suggesting that's what shewore is doing btw). The sudden suggestion that Usmanov wouldn't be in this for the money is absurd. At best, I think he's the worst of two evils. At worst he's somebody whose business and personal reputation should make us all incredibly wary. Put it this way too, given his last, ahem, "engagement" with Arsenal bloggers, Arsenal forums wouldn't be the same again. Personally, I think Kroenke's in this for the long game. He's never sold so much as a single share in any other of his sporting interests. He's trying to build a portfolio. The main area of concern is whether he actually wants to organically grow Arsenal into a bigger club, or whether he just wants us to sit on the Premier League gravy train and milk off that. Even if Arsenal don't qualify for the CL again, in 10 years time, we will likely be worth more money in 2022 than we are now such is the way the Premier Leagie is growing globally.
Little Dutch
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22/02/2012 15:52:00

Yes but if we're in the CL it will expedite that significantly, surely he'll drive for his investment to be worth more. I think the main concern at the moment is that he doesn't really "own" us. Lack of ownership means things don't get done. And not a lot of good appears to be getting done at the moment. Right now i'm going right off the bloke because of his complete silence, it's arrogant.
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22/02/2012 16:08:00

interesting topic here. judging by the achievements (or lack of) of kroenke's other sporting investments, i don't think he cares a hood of the tradition of the club & what the fans think. he is never interested in winning if the trade off is money. what risk is he assuming from his investment here? nothing. the stadium is secured by low interest bond, the club has a long waiting list for ticket, the cash flow generated year after year was in tune of tens of million and we are still selling before we buy. we don't know about usmanov but we do know a thing or two about kroenke. tell me if i'm wrong
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22/02/2012 16:18:00

Aside from buying shares, what has Kroenke done? And by that, I don't mean to criticise the man - I'm saying, if he's a shareholder but leaves the board and staff to run the club (ie isn't getting involved and doing what he like), isn't that ideal?
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22/02/2012 16:35:00

Damiano makes an interesting point. 2 years ago people loved the idea of an owner that doesn't interfere. Now results aren't good, we want one that does.
Little Dutch
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22/02/2012 17:59:00

Not at all, people have always wanted some sort of direction? We're drifting at the moment, backwards, so it's only natural that people can question what the hell is going on. Just cos it was rosy 6/7 years ago (not 2!) doesn't mean it isn't now & worth querying. Him buying up most of the club and saying absolute nothing - well I have issues with that, I'm completely uneasy with it, why would you not want to know someone's intentions Damiano in someone you have a vested interest in (i'm assuming you do) i spend a couple of k each year I reckon on going Arsenal and I want to know who is in charge of the club wants to do with it.
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22/02/2012 18:25:00

Interesting article on the continuing problems up at Rangers and a link to us that I was completely unaware of. Well now we know where Usmanov found his latest batch of shares:
Wyn Mills
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23/02/2012 00:17:00

Morning Shewore. In the past, hasn't the job of owners been to stick some money into the business when needed and leave everyone else to get on with it? Not to interfere? If his plan WAS nefarious - ie 'stockpile cash, screw the playing side, then sell the club to anyone who'll take it' - he wouldn't honestly tell anyone that, would he? It would be great to know what will happen to the club in the next 2/5/10 years, but I would presume the plan is to continue as-is, as is the case with most football clubs.
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23/02/2012 10:32:00

If the plan's to continue as is, then why buy the club? You've obviously got an agenda, why would you invest a fortune into something that you don't want to have any input over?
Report Abuse
23/02/2012 14:36:00

Maybe that's it, it's just an investment. Where's safer to invest money than Arsenal?
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23/02/2012 14:47:00

shewore, Stan Kroenke had a detailed interview with a few dailies around 4 months back. So he did break his silence finally. Its obvious that no owner would like their 'investment' to deteriorate so making funds available for the manager is something one would watch out for this summer. Its clear through the appointment of Tom Fox, Dick Law and Gazidis that Kroenke will be quite hands on in running the club and not hands off as is the popular perception.
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24/02/2012 07:16:00

Yeah the one in the Mirror I think it was? After the Chelsea game. I wouldn't be sure that he's going to "make" funds available, I reckon they either are, or they aren't, I certainly can't see him sticking his hands in his own personal wealth purely for the transfer market. Damiano, if it's an investment, then for how long? How much money does he expect to make and how? It's hardly a pension fund sticking 10% of its fund into something is it, he's trying to buy us outright.
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24/02/2012 13:24:00


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