Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arsenal's Fiscals, Part 2

"It (the housing criss) does not impact the club because we never based the budgets for the club on anything that happens at Highbury and the two are ring-fenced from each other."

- Ivan Gazidis, chief executive of the Arsenal and favourite puppet of the dastardly Danny Fiszman and inept Peter Hill-Wood

It's an international week, and the Arsenal don't have a match until the 4th of April, a home tie against Man City. Which gives us about two weeks to contemplate our collective navels and think nice thoughts about the Arsenal. Or for me to support the Socceroos in whatever match they're going to play.

Been thinking about the interim financial report a bit. Kept me up last night, actually. That and my dream about killer spies from Thailand. Man, that was a cool dream. I kept trying to play it out while I was awake in bed. I got up to the stage where I was underneath a bridge and sniping FBI agents when I realised I should probably be doing something productive at 6 o'clock in the morning.

But I'm digressing.

Peter Hill-Wood spoke a few weeks earlier about how the Highbury Square development and the footballing business are separate from each other. And it's altogether possible that that's true.

On the footballing side of things, it's looking pretty solid. We're one of the few clubs in England which can support the football costs through revenue earned. It might take a 55,000 crowd to do so, but we're capable of sustaining that. And we might not like our lack of spending, but if it meant that we remain in the black, we'd reluctantly accept it as a necessity as long as we still qualify for the Champions League and still play attractive football.

On the property side of things, it's a bit grimmer. The Queensland Rd project, which looks like a pile of brown-bricked crap when seen from the stadium, looks as bad financially as it looks superficially. The success of the Highbury Square project is dependent on a Singaporean investor who has the option on 100 of the apartments getting the funds to purchase, and dependent on the Arsenal to accept payment in installments, rather than upfront. Which means that the Arsenal will have to extend its loan on the Highbury Square development, which means that the Arsenal will be in the property game for a lot longer than we'd bargained for.

All of this will make the footballing piggy bank, with its nice, black budgets and the healthy crowds, look increasingly attractive to Peter Hill-Wood and the board. What's the chance that, five years down the road, the footballing side of business will be servicing the loan for the Highbury Square apartments? Pretty darn high, I'd say.

Despite what Gazidis says about the two being ring-fenced from each other, I'd be worried about what effect the apartments have on our finances, and our ability to compete with the big clubs. The problem with ring-fences is sheep-rustlers. And Peter Hill-Wood looks like he fancies a nice plump ewe or two.

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