Transparency Or Board Stupid?
Thomas Vermaelen declared himself fit to face Chelsea following his substitution on Tuesday night, creating a nice defensive headache for Le Boss ahead of the weekend. Vermaelen would probably have deemed himself fit even if his leg were hanging by a thread, so sick he must be of seeing the Arsenal Medical Team on a daily basis. No matter how nice and fluffy the facilities are, the Belgian has made it clear, he is playing. None of the namby-pamby getting match fitness for him.
The other kind of not-so-nice headache looms in the shape of today’s AGM. I wonder if Stan Kroenke has declared himself fit for today or is it a case of making do with the ersatz Ivan Gazidis? Is Arsène going to take the stand, plead Mea Culpa and offer him up as a sacrificial lamb? That’s what you might be expecting if the online world is anything to go by.
It is a sign of how much football has changed that the AGM is considered newsworthy. Years ago it would not have merited a mention; not so now. The Times is typical of it all, “Arsenal board braced for wrath of fans“. Still, it’s better than John Cross‘ effort on MirrorFootball’s website which was just dross. Even with a heavily choreographed Q&A Session where triviality is encouraged, I hope the questions are better than those posed by the aforementioned gentleman.
Of those dozen Cross questions, five or more will answered by events (Kroenke speaking) or by reading the recent interviews by Jeremy Wilson. We know for example, that he had a facility with Deutsche Bank that enabled the bid to succeed, why he invested and why he won’t be pumping money into the club just by reading those articles. As for the rationale behind ticket price rises, that has been carried by the club and media websites. Cross himself even wrote on the subject.
One thing I find puzzling is the building obsession with fees paid by the club for KSE’s takeover. It is baffling that anyone thinks the club had nothing to do whilst Stan’s Sporting Empire expanded? Given the club issued documents that contained legally binding information, was this expected to be provided for free. Probably. Perhaps the board should have surfed the web in their lunchtimes to find out what was happening?
There are some relevant points in both articles, notably corporate governance and transparency, along with individual broadcast rights. I would suggest that anyone talking on the latter avoid mention of Bevan’s recent intemperate outburst, discredited by his inability to provide any substantive evidence. When Dave Richards ridicules a notion, you know how daft it has to have been.
The Carling Cup ties this season have highlighted the broadcast rights issues. Clubs need to investigate the avenue of streaming the matches themselves. They are losing out with overseas streaming and I am sure most who use the illicit sites would pay for a high quality version on the official website. With television coverage not impacted, there has to be options surely?
I do think Arsenal is missing a trick by not having its own television channel, a proper one not the internet version we have. There is some value in promoting the brand worldwide via this medium, Real Madrid do so for free in this country. I am sure that if you tie it into the membership, a rise in the annual cost would probably be accepted. Or just give us something else to moan about?
Equally, there are corporate governance issues, notably around transfers which I would like to know more on. Specifics are not necessarily required but surely knowing how much the club pays agents is a good start. As for salaries, I am not convinced that we have any right to know what anyone earns. That ought to be for themselves and their bank manager to know.
The argument that we pay the wages holds no more water for Arsenal than it does when you buy a loaf of bread at Tesco. You don’t have the right to know the cashiers who serves you’s wages, why should you know what Thomas Vermaelen earns?
This is before you address the issue of commercial sensitivities surrounding a club protecting its asset, the player, when it comes to predatory advances from rival clubs. That scenario is somewhat undermined when their Mr20% has been leaking the information but that is a different problem.
Some of the governance issues can be resolved by Fifa. As an organisation now promoting itself as being transparent, there is a case for them publishing the definitive guide to transfer fees utilising data in their Transfer Matching System. A simple website puts forward all the detail; if there are concerns raised by the clubs about this weakening their bargaining hand in transfers, make the information available outside of a transfer window.
All of this before commercial deals have been considered. We may know more come the end of today. In fact we will but whether it is deemed enough is an altogether different matter.
I hope that above all else, the meeting is conducted with respect on both sides. Flannel and evasion answers from the board will only irk; observations about players being old might be relevant but not if couched in derogatory terms.
There is a feeling of goodwill building with the current run. Let’s see if it still there by the end of today.