The disconnect between the club and its supporters is never more apparent than at the AGM or any forum where supporters are present. No matter how many times the hackneyed lines are trotted out by both sides of the divide, understanding or acceptance of the alternative viewpoints is rarely acknowledged. It seems that a lot of talking takes places but no-one listens.
Of course there are a myriad of views for the club to take on board before they even get to the nuances which offers them some excuse. There is none for the apparent disdain of Peter Hill-Wood for the shareholders and press who dared to question them. The dissent was reflected in increased numbers of votes against board members being re-elected even if it is an empty gesture.
The cacophony of often contradictory views becomes polarised on certain issues. The constant beating of the FFP drum and the promise of a bright new tomorrow when 2014 comes were shown in a different light when Ivan Gazidis did not deny that Manchester City and Chelsea were not amongst the 23 clubs who were not FFP compliant. If they meet that criteria now when they are losing money hand over fist, the regulations are entirely toothless.
Such matters become more focussed when there is a perception / reality about a lack of investment. Questions about the money available to the manager received nuance-laden answers which put Wenger firmly in the firing line. The real picture becomes more apparent if the question is asked about transfers which fell through due to the current salary structure. Perhaps the board are not as innocent in transfer activity as they like to portray.
They have started to strike a better balance with ticket prices. Even so, congratulating themselves on season ticket rises on happening in two of the last seven years are moot when the cost of those seats is among the highest in the world for club football. The club should do more in this sense. Quite what is an interesting point with current finances offering little scope for this. We want the best players in the world. They want the salary to match it. Without the commercial clout that other clubs have, ticket prices falling are an apparently contradictory demand. That simply underlines the tardiness of new deals supporting the first level sponsorship.
Moving the away section to the upper tier offers cheaper seats to home supporters. Whilst the reluctance of the club to do so on the grounds that they want other clubs to treat Arsenal supporters more equitably, is admirable but it falls into the same trap as the FFP trail being blazed; those treading path are often more extreme than the following pack. Arsenal have much goodwill to gain if they make this small change. Making it is an altogether different matter.
Whilst the board and Kroenke made their play to be deeply unpopular, it was left to Arsène to acknowledge supporters concerns which is hardly surprising because despite the differences of the route to success, that is the common aim:
The environment is competitive, difficult and challenging. I think we have to be united to achieve it. I accept every different opinion but it looks to me that the modern world creates [little communities] inside every big community. The multiplication of medias create little groups of different opinions and we see that as well inside these clubs.
But these little communities have to learn to live together for one common thing, and that is the strength of our Club. And I think we have to keep that in mind. We understand that you do not always agree with what we do. But [it’s] still very important that we keep strength and that we keep united for the same thing – the good of Arsenal. Sometimes we can forget that.
I’m sure we can count on you for the whole season and we’ll come up with what we deliver at the end of the season. If you’re not happy, I’m happy to listen to you, and I’m happy to meet you.
Hopefully that promise has more substance than the vacuous announcement of the end of a recession when thousands of jobs are lost.
Some commonsense was applied in highlighting the third place finish last season. This time around was held to be an improvement on then but the recent stutter has led to that being questioned. Failure to beat QPR this weekend will surely lead to deeper questions but will a win bring about a revival of hope. The fragility of the players confidence is reflected in the stands.
There was an interesting change noticeable after the AGM, the prioritisation of a season did not meet with the previous condemnation save for the tiresome trolling of journalists. Qualification for the Champions League is the new black this season. There is a viewpoint which observes that winning the FA or League Cup would engender a winning mentality. Triumphing in a knockout tournament is a lot different to finishing a season as champions; to suggest Manchester City won the Premier League because of the previous season’s Wembley victory is ludicrous. The manager noted that players do not care about a tri-handled trophy, Old Big Ears is the one which matters.
Expectations inevitably rise ahead of the AGM, supporters are going to have their say, the club are going to take the opportunity to put their case. As is the norm, it did not live up to the billing. Kroenke ignored questions, presumably offering proof as to why it makes no difference whether or not he has any vision for the club. My own view is that he doesn’t, being quite content for the board to continue on their path. Does KSE taking a dividend matter that much? The money might well have been used to generate investment in the club but if this happens in place of them taking money from Arsenal surreptitiously, is that apparent transparency not preferable?
Will Red & White offer their alternative universe or has a détente been brokered as Ivan suggested? We shall see but more than anything, a nice win against QPR will bring the only touch of red and white to the world that I want to see.