I’ve been having a bit of an internal crisis recently.
About three weeks ago I read about a march/walk occurring before the Swansea game this weekend, and ever since I’ve been deliberating whether to take part or not. It’s required a great deal of soul searching.
Arsenal is such a big part of my life, and thus a part of my identity, so how can I even consider publically protesting against something I care so deeply about?
In truth, I don’t know if I will march tomorrow or not, I’m leaning towards it, but the very fact that I’m even contemplating taking part shows the current strain in my relationship with my own club.
I’m not here to encourage others to march, or discuss its aims; there are plenty of other places to read about that. Nor am I part of the Black Scarf movement; I’ve followed it since its inception out of curiosity, but I’ve never spoken to them, or anyone that is actually a member of the group.
Your relationship to your club is a personal matter. It’s no-one’s right to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t march, and some of the threats I’ve seen on twitter this week are quite frankly pathetic. Modern Arsenal fandom has become so fractured and divided that any opinion you provide is met with scorn and ridicule. I’d like to remind people that we all have the same end goal: to see Arsenal winning.
I love Arsenal, and I always will. It’s become more than just a football thing, it’s the memories, the friends made, the bonds shared, and the whole identity. The miles I’ve travelled to follow them and the money spent on tickets and travel is inconsequential: my relationship with the club isn’t defined in time or monetary terms.
But blind loyalty is not the same as blind faith.
I’m not happy with the status quo. I’m fed up with the way the club is run and it hurts me to see people in charge of the club that clearly don’t care as much as they should.
I’m not talking about Ivan Gazidis here. Yes he makes a lot of money but he’s a puppet, a mere mouthpiece for a majority owner that has attended precisely one game in a year and was happy to tell a barefaced lie to supporters and shareholders at the AGM. Stan Kroenke is a businessman and Arsenal is his business, nothing more. If the club lose on a Saturday, it won’t cost him a nights sleep, he won’t face mockery from his mates, and he won’t have to read about it in the papers. Let’s be honest, would he even be aware that we were playing to realise that we’d lost.
I’m fed up of Stan Kroenke, and I’m fed up of this board. This board that is happy to amble on with a ‘do enough to get by’ attitude, doing the very minimum to sustain Champions League football. This board that quite happily let the best manager in the world make each of them millions in profit. This board that charges the highest ticket prices in world football, without providing the team to match. This board that so openly lied to its fans when it said transfer funds will be ‘ring-fenced’ and unaffected by the stadium move, and this very same board that lost any right to have any say into matters to do with Arsenal Football club the day they sold their shares, each making a massive personal profit.
Peter Hill-Wood is a dinosaur and an embarrassment to the club. His actions at not just this year’s AGM, but last year’s too; the patronising derision he greeted questions with, questions from people that own more of the club than he does. The same man who said the best player in the league was sold to team that was already better than us, for ‘footballing reasons’. The man’s a joke.
This board has told me year on year that there is money to spend, they’ve told me year on year that we will be challenging for top honours, and they’ve also told me year after year that once FFP comes into play we’ll compete. The promises get higher yet the results stay the same.
I’m fed up of it. If there are transfer funds to spend then why did we make a prodigious talent like Cesc spend two years having to play alongside Denilson. Why did a team that was challenging for the title in 2010 and 2011 have to play with substandard players like Almunia and Sylvestre. If the money was there, Wenger would have spent it. This board are just happy to ‘get by’, investing nothing and reaping the very generous financial rewards while letting the manager, who’s worked miracles, take the fall for any disenfranchisement.
So if you’re fed up or disillusioned, how do you let the powers that run the club know of your despondency? People say: ‘don’t go’ or ‘when ticket sales drop off they’ll realise’.
A global, billion pound superclub like Arsenal will never be short of ticket sales. It makes no difference to them if I decided to stop going. Despite the matches attended, the money spent and the hours travelled, the club don’t view me as a fan; I’m a consumer. If I stop going and choose not to renew my season ticket, there are thousands of people who would happily take my place. The club won’t even notice. And that’s not a criticism of Arsenal, any top club is exactly the same; by refusing to go in protest, you’re just cutting of your nose to spite your face – as painful as it may be to accept, the club won’t miss you.
The reality is this: the club have got me, and they’ve got thousands of people exactly the same as me. Arsenal could lose every single game 5-0 and I, along with thousands of those who fill the stadium every week, would still be there. We’d be unhappy, but we’d be there. We’re intertwined with the club so much that it transcends success or failure. It also transcends price; supporting Arsenal is so expensive, but it’s the last thing we’d give up because of its meaning to us.
So if this is the case, if giving up your ticket is not an option, how can I, or those around me, let the club know of my discontent? I’m not going to camp outside Highbury House or send hate mail to Stan Kroenke, but maybe, just maybe, the powers that be will notice if a thousand, or five thousand people vent their anger at a protest march. It might achieve nothing, but it’s better to try and do something, rather than just continually turn up and moan about the same things. I’ m not willing to bury my head in the sand in blind optimism, when it’s clear our rivals are no longer at the summit of the league, but between 4th and 7th. We’ve regressed, and we’ve regressed under this board. This board preach ‘sustainability’ when the very thing they haven’t done is sustain. We’re out of the title race by November, and we were out of the title race last year before the season had begun.
I’m not saying we deserve to be league contenders every year, but we do have the resources to be. Unless you’re in your mid-nineties and you watched Chapman’s Arsenal in the 30’s, no Arsenal fan can feel the sense of entitlement that seeing your team win consecutive titles brings. However, what I do want, and what I think the board of any-football club should be tasked with, is making its team as successful as it can be, and this board hasn’t done that.
The purpose of a football club is to try and achieve success. And for our board, success is profit, not trophies. It’s that simple. Ask yourself, has this board done everything in its power to deliver success to Arsenal Football Club? The answer is no.
Yes, we moved to a new stadium, and they deserve credit for that, but they’ve hid behind that one move for long enough and since the move it seems that Arsenal have done everything it can to be profitable, not everything it can to be successful.
Writing a highly emotive piece like this will always invite ridicule, and it’s entirely your own prerogative whether you wish to march or not, but it’s always worth remembering that we, the fans, the people that truly care, deserve the board and owners of our club to act in the same way.
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