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.