The Telegraph are reporting tonight that unnamed Qatari and UAE investors are poised to launch an astonishing £1.5bn takeover of Arsenal FC. And make no mistake about it, this announcement has only one intention: create the talking points needed to destabilize the cub ahead of the biggest game of the season.
Tomorrow morning, millions of Arsenal supporters will be getting ready for the big game, a game which should just be about football but which we all know could do much to swing the club’s fortunes from feeding at the Champions League trough to “Being Liverpool.” Those fans should all be talking about how Wenger is going to stop Bale or how Theo Walcott is going to unlock Tottenham’s defense but instead they will almost certainly be arguing the finer points of ticket prices, whether Kroenke is the right owner of the club, stadium debt, and whether Arsenal could still remain compliant under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules should Arsenal fall into the hands of what Nick Hornby called the Sheikhigarchy.
The bidders carefully leaked out the plan; double Kroenke’s money, pay off the stadium debt, fire the board (especially Gazidis), fire Arsene Wenger, and give the new manager the money to invest heavily in the squad. The knock-on effects, they say, will be to keep homegrown players like Jack Wilshere, push Arsenal back into the elite of world football, and bring back the “true fans”.
Doubling Kroenke’s money is easy, they have said that they plan to offer to pay him £20k per share and as a result will put about £400m profit in his pocket. Paying off the stadium debt, also easy, just pay it off. Or so they say, but it’s a limited time offer, act now.
The timing of this announcement isn’t coincidence. The “bidders” know that by releasing this information on the evening of the North London Derby they will set the narrative about Arsenal for the next six months. They even reveal as much in their official quotes
We will not bid for Arsenal if they go into decline. Kroenke and Usmanov will not get this kind of valuation if Arsenal do not succeed and will not get this kind of valuation ever again.
“If they go into decline” = “if Arsenal lose tomorrow, you should be worried that we will not make another bid for this club”. It’s intended to quicken the mind, focus it on the main question; Kroenke, in or out?
I have no doubt my friends will be dipping toast points in their eggs tomorrow before the game and musing over whether they would rather have Kroenke or “anyone but Kroenke” as the owner. That is precisely what this statement is intended to do. It will plant the seed in the mind of the average fan who might be wary of Usmanov taking over but who can now look at this as an “unnamed” owner. Who would you rather have, Silent Stan or Mega Bill?
Who knows whether Mega Bill is a great guy, whether he would be good for the club, whether he is a fan of football, whether he would have tea with the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust, or even if Mega Bill isn’t just Usmanov in disguise? It’s not important right now, the important thing is that they get you thinking that Kroenke isn’t the right guy.
Along the way they throw out the populist bone and remind everyone that ticket prices at Arsenal are expensive. Their solution will be to lower ticket prices. How, exactly, they plan to do that and have further money to invest in the club and not run afoul of Financial Fair Play is not revealed. But they want to bring back the “North Bank feel” and some of the “true supporters” — buzz words, PR spin and wonderfully placed to hit two major points that have been under great media scrutiny all year.
They also make their intentions over Arsene Wenger’s future very clear:
No big club can go eight years without winning anything. No manager of a big club, not even Sir Alex Ferguson, would have survived eight years without winning.
As I said in my match preview, this game always has the rare ability in the season to set the narrative for Arsenal Football Club. In lean times Arsenal fans could feel good as long as they got one over on Spurs. In fat times Wenger went 11 years without losing to them and fourth place didn’t feel so bad as long as Arsenal finished the season above Spurs. We even coined a term “St. Totteringham’s Day” as an annual celebration of our dominance.
But this year follows on a season in which Arsenal were the closest they have ever come to being overtaken by Spurs in the League Table during Wenger’s tenure at the club. Spurs are above Arsenal in the table right now and tomorrow’s match is the proverbial “six pointer”: a platform on which they could build and overtake their rivals or which could see them seven points adrift.
But sadly, before and after this game I suspect that the fans won’t be talking much about the actual football. Instead we will all be debating Financial Fair Play, stadium debt, Wenger’s future, and whether Kroenke is the right owner.
It is a perfectly crafted leak from start to finish and it hits all the major points at just the exact right moment laying out all of the talking points for everyone to mull over before and after the game. Van Persie is mentioned, ticket prices, Gazidis, lack of trophies, Kroenke’s supposed greed… on and on every point is hit perfectly.
Make no mistake about it, this is the first shot in a hostile corporate takeover. Should Arsenal falter in the North London Derby I expect to see stickers with “Kroenke Out! Nameless Rich Benefactor In!”, “We want our North Bank back!”, “Save Jack Wilshere”, and the ironic “Kick Greed out of Football” litter North London.