Ivan’s Date With Supporters – Some Questions Of My Own
Later today, some 300 members of various Arsenal supporter groups will meet Ivan Gazidis for a Q&A session on the club’s future. There is an excellent post today by Yogi’s Warrior on why such an ocassion could be self-defeating given the attitude of both parties.
I am in complete agreement with Yogi, especially as the CEO seems to have already answered most of the questions in an interview with the club yesterday. Of course, many of the attendees today will not be seeking answers as much as hoping to exert pressure on the CEO in order to force the club to be more cognizant of their views.
In the highly result-driven footballing landscape of today, it’s debatable whether the words ‘supporters’ or ‘fans’ can be ascribed to followers of clubs anymore. Exactly what are we supporting and just what are we admirers of? The entire focus is on achieving instant success regardless of the means. We chastise the ‘sugar-daddy’ approach of certain clubs and take great pleasure when they slip up one week, only to take to forums of our creation next week to criticize our own club for not adopting the very same philosophy when those nouveau riche clubs blunder through to a trophy. And the hypocrisy is totally lost on us.
That is not to say followers shouldn’t have a platform for dialogue with the club. There is always a better way of doing things and the club should take supporters’ feelings into account. But when those concerns go beyond stadium facilities and ticket prices and more into club’s financials, transfer policies and ownership debates, one has to question whether a group of 300 self-appointed representatives really constitute the opinion of Arsenal’s global fan base.
I am aware there are small shareholders in those groups and AST themselves own shares in the club. In my opinion, this muddies the water somewhat. Don’t shareholders already get the opportunity to meet with club representatives at the AGM? I mean if you were a shareholder, it would certainly be to your benefit to promote any agenda which would increase the value of your holding, wouldn’t it? So are today’s 300 attendees representatives of the broader Gunners’ support or a much narrower band of shareholders with financial interest in the club?
I think there is a need for supporter groups to be de-linked from shareholders because of the inherent danger of conflict of interest. Small shareholders can form their own groups to unite against the two largest – Kroenke and Usmanov. Supporter groups should comprise strictly of fans who have no financial interest in the club. With global reach becoming paramount to the club’s success, more fans across the world should be encouraged to enrol. The membership numbers must reflect a sizeable portion of fans in order to be considered representative of the larger Arsenal support.
It does raise the uncomfortable question of why shareholders are such an integral part of supporter organisations. Is it simply because they care more than the rest of us? Or is it because they feel these groups provide better leverage with Arsenal FC management? It would explain to some degree why discussions seem to be progressively moving away from fan welfare and into club finances and ownership debates.
At the same time, I have to acknowledge that there are members among these groups who are positive, well-balanced and open to debate. If you are aren’t already, please follow AST member Phil Wall and his blog Angry of Islington, where you will come across considered opinions which invite discussion.
I think it’s essential supporter organisations try to bring the same kind of balanced views to the table and are humble enough to appreciate the club’s position on certain issues. But it’s wishful thinking I guess, agendas have already been set and canons primed for firing. Surely, the media will have a field day making the most of the discord within the Arsenal ranks. Unfortunately, it looks like this negativity will continue to lurk around for the time being.
In which case, I think I’ll follow the lead of others and indulge in my own self-promotion today: