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AGM 2005 report


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Another relatively bland AGM in comparison to past years. The main features were as follows


Board Presentations


Keith Edelman made a presentation about the group’s financial position. He draw attention to four key areas in the current balance sheet as follows:-


1. Tangible fixed assets of the group have increased from £210m in 2004 to £315m in 2005.


2. The cash position in 2004 was £26m, which has increased to £72m at 2005. This includes £30m received from Granada in relation to their compulsory 5% share purchase.


3. Creditors falling due after one year have increased from (£149m) to (£239m), which Edelman described as “the other side of the coin” in relation to the increased investments which have been made on behalf of the Club.


4. Equity shareholders funds have increased from £84m to £123m.


Edelman then turned to the operational side. The group have five key objectives in the 2005/2006 financial year as follows:-


1. to organise a proper farewell to Highbury;

2. to organise the development of the Highbury site;

3. to develop the three remaining surplus sites in the group’s property portfolio;

4. to re-finance the Club’s borrowings; and

5. to achieve operational completion of the Emirates Stadium.


Edelman went on to comment on these objectives. Most of the details are already public knowledge but in relation to the farewell to Highbury arrangements Edelman said there would be what he described as a “huge celebration” at the end of the Club’s time at Highbury.


[Many people who sit near me in the West Stand have been wondering why the countdown clock above the scoreboard is due to end at around 9.45pm in the evening, when the last league game against Wigan on 7th May 2006 will presumably be a Sunday afternoon kick off. This “huge celebration” announced by Edelman today may be the answer, namely that the clock is counting down to some other evening event to be held after the Wigan game].


Edelman further said there would be a series of organised events where members of the public would be able to play football matches on the pitch. Finally, in late July 2006 there will be an auction of memorabilia from the old stadium.


There then followed a video presentation about the sale of the new flats at Highbury.


Danny Fiszman then spoke about the new stadium. Details were given about the progress of sales of seats at club level and in the executive boxes. The boxes are all sold out. The Club level is said to be 80% sold out.


Questions from the Floor


The board followed the newly developed procedure of accepting only written questions which had been submitted in advance. These were split into financial and non-financial. The main points arising were as follows:-




1. The Club confirmed that if the Club is successful in re-financing the current debt of £260m then a 1% penalty fee will be payable (i.e. £2.6m) but the board said that re-financing would still be a much cheaper option even taking into account this penalty fee.


2. The Club have no present plans to list the Club’s shares on AIM, neither have they plans to split the shares, so as to reduce the share price to a more manageable level. Someone pointed out that the current shares could be split into 100 shares each and the share price would still be over £40 per share. The board said that they have not taken a view on this; they have simply been too busy dealing with other matters at this time.


3. The Supporters Trust raised a query about the 5% holding which a hedge fund has reportedly recently built up in Arsenal. Is the board concerned about this? The board confirmed that they have met the main investor. That investor has indicated that they are supportive of the current management at Arsenal. The board pointed out that the investment strategy of any individual is a matter for that individual and there is little the board can do if investors wish to purchase shares in the Club which existing shareholders are willing to sell.


4. In response to another direct question from the Supporters Trust, the board confirmed that the one currently unissued share in Arsenal Holdings Plc will be issued to the Arsenal Supporters Trust free of charge to assist ongoing dialogue with supporters. That was agreed at a board meeting held this morning.


Non-financial Questions


5. Two or three questions were similar in that they raised concerns whether existing seats in the old stadium will truly be replicated by seats of an equivalent standard in the new stadium. One Clock End season ticket holder was concerned that Clock End season ticket holders have been treated as second class citizens. This was strongly refuted by the board. All 3,300 Clock End STs will go to the new North Stand. It has not been possible to locate these ST holders in the new South Stand because the family enclosure capacity has been increased to 4,500 and the Club wanted to avoid the arrangements whereby Clock End season ticket holders have to move for certain cup games.


6. In response to a question on catering, Peter Hill-Wood said that the catering at the new stadium would be “second to none” in this country. The board also revealed that in addition to the club level dining rooms and all of the on-site catering outlets there will be additional match day dining facilities in one of the new tower blocks which is being built adjacent to the new ground, with a spectacular view of the ground.


7. Hill-Wood confirmed that the Club has not allocated dedicated facilities to regional Supporters Club branch organisers at the new stadium. Apparently there wasn’t space but the board hope that Supporters Club branch members will be happy with the facilities generally at the new stadium.


8. One questioner wondered whether the board are concerned about the general increase in ticket prices. An adult taking two children to a game including travel costs £200 per match. Isn’t there a risk that a whole generation of fans are being priced out of attending football? A large round of applause from the meeting. Peter Hill-Wood responded as follows:-


8.1. Next season the board are introducing tiering of ticket pricing for different categories of games.


8.2. All seat prices have been frozen at 2005 prices.


8.3. The family enclosure capacity has been increased to 4,500.


8.4. The board are committed to retaining ticket pricing at the lowest possible level in order to retain a broad appeal to fans.


9. Will season ticket holders be guaranteed a seat at future cup finals? Answer: No. There will be 44,000 new season holders compared to 22,000 current season ticket holders. Arsenal have not been informed of the FA’s policy on ticketing but tickets for future cup finals are likely to be allocated by ballot.


10. An away scheme member asked whether the board think it is fair that away scheme members should buy (indeed be compelled to buy) away tickets for every single round of a competition only to risk losing out for semi-final and final tickets. The board noted this point and agreed to give it further consideration. [Quite right too, says this particular away scheme member!].


Arsene Wenger


11. Arsene Wenger rose to a huge ovation, as usual.


12. He then made a brief ex tempore speech.


13. He thanked all the fans for their support. He said it will really be needed this season! [much laughter from the audience]


14. AW said we WILL get it right. To be second last year was a disappointment but we had the 49 game unbeaten run and we won the FA Cup. The standard is very high. The home form this year is okay. The away form has been very disappointing. The Club has been hit very hard by the internationals. Many players have come back injured and the breaks have been disruptive.


15. However, AW said he is a strong believer in the quality of the present team. He said he wanted to elaborate on the reason we are in the present position. He said he tried to anticipate the new stadium. He thought the finances would not be available for him to invest in the team so he put a lot of emphasis on developing young players. The current balance in the squad is not right. 50% of the squad is in their early 20s and the other 50% are close to 30 or over 30. The squad is unbalanced in the 24 to 28 age range. AW tried to correct that in the summer and will further try to address this in January.


16. AW said this demographic problem is not a problem when all the players are there, but shows itself when some key players are injured.


17. That said, even in the games we have lost the team were not dominated in terms of possession, so the signs are not bad. Nevertheless we did not get the points. There has been some bad luck with injuries, for example FL was injured at the beginning of the Chelsea game when we were in the middle of a good spell and the same happened at West Brom but in general Wenger has “great confidence” in the team and the squad.


18. AW said that contrary to rumours in the press the spirit in the squad is “absolutely fantastic”. AW is confident the team will make progress now everyone is back. AW said he still thinks we can challenge for the championship. More than ever this year the championship will be played in the second half of the season. As at Boxing Day only 18 games will have been played where normally 21 or 22 would have been played in a normal season. In addition, the Champions League is still a target and the FA Cup is still a target and the Carling Cup will be a further opportunity to play young players.



19. Arsenal has a strong ambition to be the best club team in the world. At the start of the season there was a lot of negativity in the media about Arsenal’s prospects. Wenger said he does not share this view “AT ALL”. We have to stick together and develop the Club together.


20. There was then a question about the lack of English players being a concern. Why could the Club not have invested in Robinson, Carrick or Defoe, all of whom were available at modest prices, and all of whom could have been sold on if their move to Arsenal were not successful. AW confirmed that all three were considered and in one case negotiations reached an advanced stage. But in the end none of these moves worked out for various different reasons. AW emphasised that Arsenal do not buy players with a view to selling on. Second, AW does not look at the passport but rather whether the individual shares the values of the club.

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