Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Usmanov: Our New Insect Overlord!

"Usmanov, who turns 56 tomorrow, is in pole position to buy Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith's 15.9 per cent share in the club, a transaction that would take Usmanov well in excess of 30 per cent and would precipitate a formal takeover bid for the club, in agreement with the City's financial rules."

- The First Post

So it turns out that Usmanov is going to buy Nina Bracewell-Smith's 15.9% stake, thereby triggering the mandatory buy-out clause and setting up a clash with Stan "The Man" Kroenke for world domination and ownership of the Arsenal. On a slow news week, when the only significant stories were Djourou's injury and Sagna's hair, it's something worth looking into.

When Usmanov first started taking an interesting in the Arsenal, gooners were quite angry. He had a shady past. He's a foreigner. He looks like a cross between a very fat badger and a demustachioed walrus. And he's not a cigar-smoking, old-money, Etonian toff like the other significant owners of Arsenal Inc.

I'm not saying all these points were valid reasons to dismiss Usmanov's bid, but they were defended quite vigorously, if I recall.

However, two years down the track, and people seem resigned to the fact that Usmanov will play a significant role in Arsenal's future. Why is that? What happened to the protests, the burning effigies, the cancelled memberships and Highbury riots that were supposed to occur? Where is the opposition to a man who, given the questions about his past, seems to be unfit to own an organisation as awesome as the Arsenal?

Maybe we've admitted to ourselves that there's nothing we can do about it.

I must confess my allegiances at this point. I'm wary of Usmanov, and I'm wary of Kroenke, but I'm incredibly weary of Danny Fiszman, Peter Hill-Wood, Nina Bracewell-Smith and all the other old-money English owners of the club. I didn't like the way they kicked up a fuss when Stan Kroenke started buying shares. I found Peter Hill-Wood's xenophobic "we don't want his sort" rants disgusting. And I don't like the current cloak-and-daggers boardroom manoeuvres. It reeks of bad taste.

At this point in time, I don't really care who takes over the club. Usmanov and Kroenke want it because it's a big club which turns a profit, with untapped global potential. Hopefully they'll invest money into the club, build up the squad and promote it around the world. I've always felt that the Arsenal could have as big a presence as Man Utd or Real Madrid, and I hope our new owners feel the same way. But they might not. It's well within their power to do a Liverpool or a Man Utd, leverage the shit out of our club, sit on it until the value of increases, and then flog it off to a football-obsessed Gulf State sheik.

That's profoundly depressing.

In an ideal world, the Arsenal would be a non-profit organisation run by its members. Of course, given that the Arsenal is worth £1.2 billion at the moment, it'll take a bit of thinking to find the funds. I don't think it'll be as easy as pooling up our money, trotting over to the bank and asking for a £1.2 billion loan, with nice, easy repayments over 50 years. I think we'd need a billionaire to help us out.

So here's the deal. We need Alisher Usmanov and his untold riches. We could make a deal with him. Say, if he's willing to buy out the club, set it up as a member-owned and member-run organistion, and then divest all ownership to the members, then we're willing to accept him as Arsenal's sugar daddy. We'll put banners around the stadium proclaiming our love for him. We'll remove the cannons from outside the stadium and we'll erect a six-foot copy of Usmanov's head on the steps.

And as a measure of good faith, we should stop calling him a fat, walrus-like Uzbeki hitman. It's only fair.

All Hail Alisher Usmanov, our new Overlord!

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