Say hello to the new Chair, same as the old Chair

Peter Hill-Wood steps down and Arsenal appoint Sir Chips Keswick Chairman of the board. Keeping with Arsenal’s very conservative traditions. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Arsenal has announced today that Peter Hill-Wood is standing down from the board of Arsenal football club and that Sir Chips Keswick has been appointed Chairman in his place. Unless there is going to be a boardroom shuffle, Peter Hill-Wood’s resignation means the end of a family dynasty of Hill-Woods at Arsenal which dates back to the Herbert Chapman era.

Peter Hill-Wood was the last Hill-Wood on the Arsenal board and is known affectionately for his habit of speaking before thinking but should rightly be known instead as the chairman who oversaw the most successful period on and off the pitch in Arsenal’s history. The always excellent Les Crang did a piece on Hill-Wood’s place in Arsenal history here at 7amkickoff just yesterday, read it if you get a chance. We all wish Peter Hill-Wood and his family many years of health and happiness.

Despite the lack of a Hill-Wood on the board, in many ways Chips Keswick represents a continuation of the tradition built up around Arsenal over the last 16 years. Peter and Chips were colleagues at Hambros Bank and Eton boys so it should be little surprise to read Silent Stan’s pronouncement that “he will provide further direction and support in our ambition to compete at the top of the game here and in Europe and to win trophies.” In other words, more of the same.

And what does that mean? “More of the same”? It means more of the same business model for Arsenal Football Club run on a self-sustaining financially stable platform, with slow growth over time, which will hopefully lead to trophies. Quite the opposite, then, of nearly every other football club in the English Premier League and as we might call it, “The Arsenal Way.”

The Sunderland Way, whose director is former Gunner Niall Quinn, is typical of the way many football clubs are run in the Premier League these days. Sunderland finished last season on the edge of relegation, after firing their ridiculous manager and installing another, even more ridiculous, manager. Using figures from the last reporting period (2011-2012) Sunderland managed to escape relegation with the 10th highest wage bill, 82% of their turnover dedicated to wages, 60% of their income from television rights, the third highest losses in the League, £84m in debt, and Niall Quinn ranking as one of the best paid directors in the land, with £2.4m in annual salary. And they play horrible football.

It’s not as if Sunderland are alone in this mess that the Premier League has become. Most teams in the League are operating under this unsustainable model of spending money that they don’t have. It could be why the teams almost unanimously voted to set some rules in place to help curb this spending. Though whether those rules or UEFA’s Financial Fair Play will ever really be enforced is yet to be seen. But there is a tacit recognition, at least, by the owners that carrying huge debts so that your team can be held hostage by mercenary footballers for a king’s ransom isn’t the way forward.

In fact, there are several teams, most notably Swansea, who have completely thrown out the Sunderland model and instead reached for something a bit more aspirational. Swansea has a brand new stadium which is an absolute joy to watch football in, they have a keenly assembled team who play some of the most entertaining football in the land, they made £17m in profits, they keep their wages to 54% of turnover, their highest paid director makes just £200k a year, and their manager has the best record in the League in terms of getting maximum value out of the transfer market:


Swansea also had the lowest wage bill of any team in the League in 2011-2012 and finished in 11th place, 9 positions above where we would expect to see them given the accuracy of predicting League position via wages.

I know that many Arsenal fans are standing on the precipice of the valley of longing. Many of us are staring at the trophy cabinet and wishing that we could have some silverware, or looking at the transfer market and wondering if we will ever see a Thierry Henry or Bergkamp transfer to Arsenal again. I know, because I too feel that longing keenly. I covet the Higuains and Cavanis of the world and I feel a slight tinge of anger that despite Arsenal’s high ticket prices and rather high turnover the club still seem reticent to splash the cash on a big name signing.

Just like almost everyone else, I wake up every morning and look to see if Arsenal have made a transfer. And just like everyone else, I crack jokes and twiddle my thumbs as we sit and watch the transfer rumors spin around us and one by one our dream targets are picked off by our rivals.

But there is a method to the madness, I think. And it might not be the method that you would pick but it seems to be the method that several teams are picking, teams like Swansea, Everton, and to some extent Tottenham. And in a way, you could argue that’s Arsene Wenger’s influence once again on English Football.

If England was changed by Arsene in his early years (as argued in Arsenal: the making of a modern superclub) by bringing on foreign players, slapping the fags and pints out the hands of his English players, and through his other preparations. Then perhaps England is being changed once again by Arsene Wenger and his insistence on purchasing players at the value he sees fit and through running the club on a tight budget?

Perhaps. Still, we want players. Signings. Transfer porn!

And with the constant beating of the drum by Gazidis that Arsenal have the money to spend, I do believe that the Arsenal board are imploring Arsene Wenger to make a big signing. If Arsenal are the picture of moderation then they should remember the old adage that “all things in moderation, even moderation.”

It’s ok to get drunk and sleep with Gonzalo Higuain every once in a while. Just don’t do it every weekend, like they are in Sunderland, and you’ll be fine. In fact, you’ll be more than fine. You might even wake up feeling better than ever.


17 thoughts on “Say hello to the new Chair, same as the old Chair

  1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Ickenhamgooner

    Whatever anyone thinks, Peter Hill Wood has been a loyal and dedicated servant of the club and I wish him well for his retirement.

    Sir Chips, I also wish you the very best for your Chairmanship.

  2. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    Beginning of a new era?
    The post-modern super club?
    Too early for all the “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” jokes?

    The determination with which we ended the season could take us to the title next year. I hope our eight years of famine are over, and we begin a new phase of successes and trophies.

  3. +13 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    I know another club is probably going to “swoop in’ for Higuan but I can still dream. Actually, I’ve been dreaming of many headlines as of late. Here are a few:

    Bayern inquires about Arsenal defender Koscielny and immediately told to go do one.

    Barca asks Arsenal about Koscielny’s availability. Arsenal counters with Messi’s availability.

    Chelsea scouts kidnapped by a tribal gang in Africa after losing track of the Arsenal scouts they were following.

    Arsenal tell Barca to fuck off for cuntish behavior.

    Higuain chooses Arsenal over Juventus after listening to the little boy inside of him

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      If the Guardian is to be believed, nothing can be sorted out over Higuain until Madrid’s new manager is appointed, which could explain why we haven’t seen much movement from Arsenal so far in the transfer market. Seems like a lot of things have to fall in place for us to land Higuain: 1) after hearing the new manager’s plans, he still wants to leave; 2) we can outbid Juventus and Chelsea and whatever other clubs are now after him; 3) he would prefer us to them…which, if you’re honest, is hard to see for a number of reasons.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966

    The board does need young blood 9 and while Mr Chips is a whole 4 years younger than the Daily star’s favourite arsenal source it’s not going to affect the vitality of the board, IMHO.

    Hopefully, whoever takes Mr Chips place on the board will be the right side of 70,

    I’ll miss PHW and despite his bouts of foot in mouth, I remember seeing him chatting to a fan outside the club level doors in the west stand after a game last season, he seemed an affable chap.

  5. -10 Vote -1 Vote +1g clarke

    Swansea stadium is not owned by the club it is council owned and they pay rent also shared by rugby team isn’t there something you could write about in states arsenal have more than its share of arsols over here

    1. +7 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

      Tim, an Arsenal fan, trying to pay a compliment to Swansea. You, presumably a Swansea fan, trying to insult Arsenal fans.

      Who’s the “arsol” in that scenario? You.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1caribkid

      For your sake, I hope you are not British. Even Smart Phone have punctuation signs.

      Apart from that, why don’t you go back to the cave you recently emerged from after a century of hibernation. It’s now 2013.

      PS. Hope you are not an Arsenal fan, the majority of them are intelligent.

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1craig

    So obviously, I enjoyed the article, but looking at the chart I’d suggest re-rigging the percent formula.

    I’d do (Difference/Fees paid)*100 to get a percent profit/loss. For Swansea that shows that 39.85/26.69= 149% profit.

    Intuitively, if you put in 27 punds and get back 67, that shows that your investment has produced a profit = 1.5 times the original amount. An increase of 150% seems a better way to describe that than a 60% increase. I think your way underestimates the actual gain by comparing the return to the final value instead of the initial investment.

    Alternatively, you could just do current value/fees paid to get a ratio of final value to original value. For Swansea again, you get 66.54/26.69=2.49. This shows for each 1 pound Swansea put in, they ended with 2.49 pounds. A ratio of less than 1 would show the loss for clubs that subtracted value.

    Either way, it shows just how amazing Swansea’s value added was. 60% implies that they saw a little under 2/3rds growth/profit on every pound. In reality, they got way more than that.

    And I wouldn’t get drunk and sleep with Higuain, but the girls you had up on his banner the other day, well….

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Jaymin

    I was optimistic about a new direction, but then, only days after declaring that they knew the board needed more diversity, they appointed a man in his 70s our chairman. a big middle finger to all the fans. they own us, and they do as they like, and they will continue to do so.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

      Diversity does not mean appointing an outsider as Chairman. If they replace him on the board with someone newer, or younger, then that’s a step in the right direction.

  8. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1Karki

    I don’t understand this brouhaha over this announcement. yes he is over 70. so what? important thing is does he have the ability and the willingness or not. what does age have to do with ability. I also don’t understand this crying over to appoint a former football player. Platini and blatter are former football players and so were their predeccessors and so will be their successors. How has it gone? Have they evolved? Have they countered the problems that started since their footballing days, for example racism, drug abuse, head-on? NO.
    The important thing is ability and willingness.

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