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Arsenal AGM


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Arsenal AGM : Wenger wows shareholders, as usual

By Myles Palmer


ARSENE WENGER spoke to 700 shareholders at the end of a 45-minute AGM, the first in the new Emirates Stadium.


The meeting was in the huge Woolwich Suite restaurant, which has the glass wall of the stadium on one side and an interior window on the other side, overlooking the pitch.


It wasn't Arsene at his best because nobody is at their best when they've come home from Moscow at 4 a.m. the previous day. But he got a sustained ovation and you could not help thinking that Arsenal will be a special football club for as long as he is around.


His decade has seen astonishing progress by the club and Arsene remains a very, very unusual character : a polymath, a workaholic, a control freak who can somehow balance long term objectives against short term needs. A detail man who never forgets the big picture, Arsene usually talks to shareholders in generalities rather than specifics, but he pushes all the right buttons.


The last four years have been hard and risky for him but he made light of that, refusing to acknowledge that money for team-building was tight between 2002 and 2006.


He talked instead about why Arsenal FC is special, and how its unique character must be preserved, even in this high-tech age.


Earlier we had heard some questions from the floor and one shareholder, Ian Crawford, prefaced his question by saying, "Good afternoon Mr Chairman, board, ladies and gentlemen and... genius."


That got a good laugh.


At the end of the meeting Arsene spoke for seven minutes.


He thanked three players who have left the club.He did not mention the fourth.


"Good afternoon , ladies and gentlemen. Once again we are here together. I celebrated recently ten years at the club (applause) and I'd like to take advantage of this occasion to thank you all - the board, the shareholders, and all the fans all across the world who have given me consistent support.


"I've learned a lot in ten years. I remember the day I arrived - and I see what the club is today. I must say the club looks much better than ten years ago - I must say I'm much worse (laughter). But that's quite fair, it could be the other way round (laughter).


"I learned as well how big this club is. I remember when we were speaking about improving the capacity of the stadium, we were speaking fifty thousand, fifty five. We went up to sixty and we were all thinking we were a little bit adventurous


"And now we discover that in a sixty thousand seater we are sold out, nearly, in every game. So I learned how big the support of this club is. I believe the board and myself are conscious that we have to develop that love for the club. And that we have to take care of the fans who love the club.


"I travel a lot, I see that we have gained thousands of fans all across the world, through the way we behave on the pitch, but as well the way we behave, the united way of life we have already shown to the outside. And I think that's very, very important.


"And for me a board meeting and an AGM today is as well a good occasion to show how united we are and that we are on the same wavelength to produce the quality of the game, and as well to have the quality of attitude, and how much we love the game together.


"Because basically, if we are together here, it is so to improve that on a consistent basis. If we have built a bigger stadium, the people who come after us have something fantastic to work with and can offer something that people love. That's our first target.


"I believe that since 2002 we have been consistent in our approach to being first or second, to be in cup finals.We have reached a final last year, unfortunately we could not win it. But we got in that final 13 minutes enough frustration to come back and try to win it this season.


"People at the moment say we have the third team or the fourth team, I don't really know. But I know one thing. I have a team with plenty of talents which is very hungry. I believe we have a very fair chance to fight for the Premiership, to fight for the Champions League as well, and to fight for the FA Cup and the Carling Cup. It will take a lot of energy but I have enough belief, and I think if I can share that with my team, to do another great season.


"We have slowly developed and rejuvenated our team, and I d like to thank, as well, the big players who have left us. You have all been at the testimonial for Dennis Bergkamp who has achieved ten years at the club. Robert Pires and Sol Campbell have left us. And I would like to thank them publicly for what they've brought to the club, not only the quality of performances they've given to the club, but through their attitude and the high professionalism they have shown to our younger players.


"I think Arsenal is about values, character, under difficult circumstances sometimes - David Dein always reminds me, we never do things easy at Arsenal, and that's proved to be right many times. It's the kind of character you need to be successful at the club. It's the first time we are in the new stadium and I feel in the future we must not forget that we are responsible for the kind of character that this club has been built on.


"There are plenty of players who come back. Sometimes they move, they come back and they always say to me, 'There's something special inside here that makes life enjoyable and different than any other club.' And I'm always very proud when players say that. But I believe we have a big responsibility to keep that inside our club, together.


"I think another concern, maybe, in England, we have developed less English players than young foreign talents. It is down to one basic reason that we have recently produced less talent. Because we have responded later with the quality of the academies..


"But I think here at the club, with Richard Carr, we have really developed our youth system. And now we will, in the next three or four years, produce real domestic talent. Because we are bringing top domestic talent to the club.


"We are at the front of another season where we expect a lot. The only thing I can say on behalf of my players, and my staff, is that the energy level I have, and the hunger I have, is bigger than ever, and I will give absolutely everything I have to be successful this season. It's down to how much we believe we can do it. We have seen that every game is a big, big battle. We have seen that again in Moscow the other night. But we've shown as well in the league recently that we can come back and compete with everybody at the top.


"That will be my main target and I hope we'll meet next year, happy with what we have achieved. Thank you very much."


Oct 19, 2006



AGM: Safe hands to protect Arsenal tradition

By Ian Grant


The Arsenal AGM - the first in the Emirates Stadium was well attended - between 650-700.


Out of the Woolwich Suite window, the old Highbury sat parallel, looking sadly worse for wear, but importantly, like some still attached umbilical cord, will pay off some of the debt.


And as if to guarantee that unique Arsenal tradition will be maintained and protected (also see Myles piece on Wenger's speech) Peter Hill-Wood re-iterated that Arsenal won't be sold - haven't reached out for a bidder, nor have they been approached, and they would repel any bidder.


Keith Edelman outlined the complex restructuring arranagements for the new stadium - both organisationally and financially.


He said the original £260m from six banks in 2004 - carried both construction risk and ticket sales risk - and following stadium completion and the sale of 150 boxes on three year terms, 7000 Club seats; 32,000 season tickets - and a waiting list for all those, a new loan could be negotiated.


This is a fixed rate bond of £210m at 5.1% (five times oversubscribed) and a floating rate bond of £50m (based on LIBOR rate of 5.75 + a formula of 0.22% over a three week period). This floating rate bond will be dispensed when the Highbury Square Development is sold in 2009/2010.


The upshot of all this is a 2% saving of interest, and around £10m/year.


Edelman added that of the 704 Highbury Square units (55 for shared equity housing) 86% had been sold.


In terms of questions from the floor of a financial nature, Arsenal Holdings are giving one spare Arsenal share to the Arsenal Supporters Trust.


Keith Edelman fielded a question over the average 22,000 de-minimis crowd level in relation to the bond requirements. He said the figure was an illusory number, but more like 32,000.


Peter Hill-Wood said that Arsenal don't disclose transfer fees because of non-disclosure agreements in the contracts. And he alluded to the fact that it was an Arsenal tradition.


Oct 20, 2006

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