Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Arsenal Fanshare’s a good idea

"We believe it is fundamentally helpful to the club to have supporters who are active and engaged. The important thing is that supporters are valued and nurtured, not exploited. That is good for the club's soul, and for its all-round health."

- Ivan Gazidis, about the mooted Arsenal Fanshare proposal

For as little as £100, an Arsenal supporter will soon be able to buy 1/100th of an Arsenal share, and gain full shareholder rights: the chance to attend the annual general meeting, ask questions of the directors and vote on policy. It’s due to a proposal called Arsenal Fanshare, organised by the Arsenal Shareholder’s Trust, and it’s supposed to enable a degree of fan representation at the Arsenal governing level. All the major shareholders (Fiszman, Kroenke, Usmanov, Bracewell-Smith) have endorsed it.

In some ways, it’s a good idea.

Firstly, as the major shareholders have endorsed the plan, it puts to bed the idea that we’re on the brink of a takeover. Kroenke and Usmanov can hardly launch a takeover after saying that fan-ownership is a good idea.

Secondly, it gives the club a bit of stability. There’s been a lot of turmoil, intrigue and back-stabbing in the past ten years, our board and major shareholders are in a transitional period, and the issue of our ownership is in a state of flux. If a large block of shares (say 30%) eventually become owned by a fans’ trust, it’ll give our board the kind of stability and continuity that it enjoyed in the years before SkySports.

However, my main concern is that Arsenal fans are being told to cough up even more money to prop up the Arsenal share-price. Gooners put £10 a month into Fanshare, a fund which tries to buy shares at £10,250 a share. Fanshare, by it’s very nature, creates demand for available Arsenal shares and props up the trading price. So for major shareholders looking for an exit strategy (i.e. Fiszman and Bracewell-Smith) it gives them a measure of insurance against a price drop, as well as create a captive buyer for their shares if no other bidders come forward. For major shareholders who are biding their time before a full takeover (i.e. Kroenke and Usmanov) it protects the value of their investment.

So why are gooners being encouraged to spend money to prop up a few shareholders’ portfolio? Don’t get me wrong - I’m still very much in favour for this proposal. It’s a generational thing, and I can see a time in the distant future when the Fanshare (or the Arsenal Shareholders Trust) has a major stake in the club, has a seat on the board, and allows the fans a chance to participate in creating the Arsenal we all wish we had. I look forward to that day. But I’m not about to fall on my knees and praise Gazidis for a proposal that gives the existing shareholders many, many benefits.

If the board really wants to be good guys to the fans, they’d get Wenger to buy a decent keeper, a decent centre-back, a decent defensive midfielder, a tactical defensive coach to assist Wenger, and make it an imperative that Wenger tries to win the Premier League.

So on the 251st last day of my 20s, I drove my parents to the airport, went to work and tried to nap in the staff room, had dinner with a friend, and came home. Pretty tired, been up since 3:30am. It’s the equivalent of 2:00am according to my body clock.

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