Trying to find things at which Arsenal excel isn’t difficult but we’re a club of extremes. On the pitch? Not very good. Fans game of hide-and-seek? World champion hiders; look at those gaps at the Emirates. Gender Pay Gap? World class.
Which is a curious thing to say considering there’s a 79.6% gap in the average hourly wage paid to men and women. Take out the first team players and staff, however, and women earn 2.5% more than men. It’s an unusual return for football when the likes of Southampton, supposedly a modern, forward-thinking club, shows a 37% imbalance in favour of males after taking players out of the equation.
Arsenal do get things right.
Some years ago the AST funded a corporate governance audit of Arsenal and the club didn’t come out of it well. The same problems then – lack of diversity at the highest levels, based on race and gender – still exist now. Ivan, full of his good intentions, wants to address these issues, not only on the board but also in the senior positions at the club.
Being full of good intentions and actually doing something about it are two quite different things.
It’s harsh to criticise Gazidis singularly about this. The entirely white and mainly geriatric board is to blame. The white and geriatric majority shareholder is the real culprit. It’s a different circle with different sets of rules and expectations to his ‘home turf’ and Enos isn’t adapting well.
There is no reason why we don’t have female directors or those from ethnic minorities; Arsenal is a club based in a London borough with a diverse population. It’s a global brand, pushing itself into the lives of millions, irrespective of race, gender or anything else.
But not at the top level; That’s jobs for the boys. Some things Arsenal do well, some not so.
Any Tiny Step of Advancement
Some will argue (wrongly, in my view) that there aren’t suitable candidates or it isn’t important. One example. We run a successful women’s football club, have done for years. Their ‘board champion’ is a male. Why?
And don’t get me started on the Living Wage. 20-year contracts don’t preclude Arsenal from pressurising their suppliers into paying the Living Wage. We do it for direct club employees, but what about other low-paid workers who help Enos make his investment rise in value?
When we get it right at Arsenal – and there’s a lot of good things going on in communities around the world – we get it really right. But when we don’t bother, when we don’t try, we’re hopeless. As buried in the out-dated thinking which pervades football, as any other club.
There was a twitter exchange which underlines it isn’t just Arsenal which has to address its’ thinking on gender issues, even allowing for trolls, etc. The replies are a fascinating trawl into the human psyche, as well as underlining the work left in promoting equality.
One of these days a club is going to appoint a female manager. They’ll work out they could employ the smartest female manager in the world – the female Pep or Fergie – rather than some guy who accidentally took Hull up 5 years ago.
— Richard Osman (@richardosman) April 2, 2018
Some will argue that Arsenal are better than others and that is true. The whole of football needs to get its arse in gear on so many levels. A lot of good people try their hardest every minute of every day to improve that situation; it’s a slow and often thankless task, but they keep on doing it.
They need an elite club to take the lead. Why not Arsenal?
Like a Raindrop Falling into the Ocean
You may say, you’re a dreamer, son. Get on with the football. Well, this is football. We can either let it become another commodity to be pushed over the counter or we can keep it as the game of the people, one which has a role to play at the centre of our communities. The definition of communities has changed; they are broader than the two square miles of our part of London, they are global.
And that makes Arsenal’s social responsibilities even more important. People talk about the Arsenal Way. As if we do things the right way, all the time. Maybe the Arsenal Way needs to change. Maybe it is no longer good enough for it to just be a mission statement which is little more than a catchphrase.
It’s time for it to count for something within the organisation itself.