Thursday, 30 August 2007

Beware of the Bear.

It was revealed this afternoon the David Dein, the former vice chairman of Arsenal has old his 14.5% stake in the club to a specifically created firm called Red and White Holdings owned by Russian mining and metallurgy billionaire Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri a London based fund manager and long time associate of Usamnov.

David Dein left the Arsenal board on the 18th April this year after it failed to back his plan for the club to be taken over by American Stanley Kroenke. Kronke who now himself owns a 12% stake in Arsenal was thought to be favourite to buy Dein’s shares.

Today however it has been announced that along side his sale of shares to Usmanov Dein has also been appointed as chairman Red and White Holdings. Red and White today stated that it wanted to up its stake in Arsenal over time but it stressed there were no plans for an imminent increase in its holding

Dein is also a close friend of the current Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger and unsurprisingly today Red and White Holdings issued a statement saying it felt it crucial that manager Arsene Wenger stayed at Arsenal as he was "vital to the future success of the club".

Dein himself was quoted today as saying

"I have always had the best interests of Arsenal at heart. I've had a love affair with the club since I was six."

"My ambition remains to play an active role in Arsenal again. My immediate intention is to work with others to provide the financial resources necessary to turn the vision into reality”.

He didn’t mention the fact that he has just made a tidy profit on the shares he bought dirt cheap in the early eighties.

As Dein and Wenger are close I would imagine this is the reason why Wenger has suddenly started to make all the right noises on an extension of his contract. Especially as Dein will undoubtedly soon be in a position to forcibly regain his seat on the board.

I know that extra money would be helpful in trying to keep up with the Manures and Chelskis of this world but I feel really uncomfortable with the prospect of L’arse becoming yet another plaything for foreign investors who care little about the tradition or history of the clubs that they acquire.

I wonder how long it will be before all of the first flight teams in the country are under the control of foreign owners? And when it occurs what will it mean? With owners having no particular attachment other than to the ledger of the clubs they own how long before the senior clubs are plying their trade in a sealed european super league? And where will this leave the remainder of the 92?

In the last season before the establishment of the Premier League I was one of the ‘idiots’ who would release balloons in my teams colours before the start of a match in a futile protest about what the Premier league might become. I think that it has pretty much ended up where we envisaged it would have been.

I was also one of the thousands who trekked to Brighton in 1996 at the Goldstone Ground as part of the ‘Fans United’ movement to protest against the rape of the club by the then majority shareholder Bill Archer. Hundreds came from all over the country and many from Europe as well. It was primarily about BHAFC but again there was an undercurrent concerned with the direction of the game.

The situation isn’t comparable as there will probably always be an Arsenal and the chances were at the time that there probably wouldn’t be a Brighton which would be sad (unless you follow the Palace that is).

But I think the underlying point is that if you take control of clubs away from people who are part of the community in which the clubs operate, the fabric of shared history, identity and loyalty starts to fray and this will effect the whole game, not just one club in particular.

I do believe in the operation of free markets and the rationality of liberal economics – the trouble is that an interest in football and your club in particular isn’t a rational thing.

L’arse have always been considered old money, the ‘Bank of England’ of football. I really hope that they can stay that way.

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