Arsenal are taking flak from all comers at present, including from their own fans about the state of play on the pitch and off it. Callum Farrell offers an alternate view.
BBC documentary “Inside Claridges” illustrates the day-to-day duties and responsibilities involved in running one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, a business which has been operating in Mayfair for one hundred and fifty years.
One of the reasons why Claridges is so globally recognisable is because of the lengths it goes to to maintain high standards and look after their customers; if guests would prefer a Jacuzzi to a bath they will tear it out and install one before they arrive, if Robert Downey Junior wants a full size gym in his room then one is built. No one needs to worry about their cutlery being any further than precisely an inch from the edge of the table and no one needs to lose sleep about their jam pots at breakfast not facing them.
As Thomas Kochs, general manager at the hotel, declares astonished to the camera, “Just imagine if those things didn't matter anymore!”
It isn’t difficult to imagine Arsene Wenger saying the same thing about the way in which things are run at Arsenal, where the way they develop players for the Premier League from their phenomenal youth system is the unique aspect which makes them stand out among their competitors.
There has always been a tradition of using youth at the club where past managers George Graham and Bertie Mee have relied on home grown players to win the league and cup.
Recently however, after Arsenal’s loss to Bradford in the Capital One Cup, many fans have been calling for the Frenchman’s head and perhaps adopt a policy enjoyed by other clubs in the country.
Perhaps they’d enjoy a tyrannical Russian billionaire who chops and changes managers at the expense of any kind of player development and style?
Or at the mercy of a Middle Eastern family of billionaires who run at losses of almost nighty eight million pounds a season?
Or perhaps enjoy an explosion of success like Portsmouth and Rangers before burning up and crashing to the ground?
If the state of football at the moment teaches us anything it should be that the system that Arsenal has in place and the responsibility they exercise should be an example fans are proud of rather than be embarrassed about.
The landscape of the sport is about to dramatically change in a way which will send shockwaves through Europe and will inevitably result in some of the largest clubs no longer taking part in our coveted continental competition.
The Financial Fair Play rules will aim to incentivise clubs to act more financially responsible and look to developing their youth systems to unearth new talent; a system Arsene has already constructed and perfected in his sixteen years at the club.
When Ivan Gazidis says that by 2014 they “will be among the top five most financially powerful clubs in the world” and will “really start competing” it isn’t difficult to believe him.
Football clubs in this country are institutions. They are the anchors in many communities, providing welcome distractions from the financial struggles and emotional problems many people suffer in their lives, and it is of vital importance that their stability is secured.
Arsenal is one of those institutions; every local club is. Owners at clubs such as Portsmouth have abused the trust and love that fans have imparted on their clubs and run them into the ground at the expense of short-term success, endangering the heritage of a community that adore it.
Fans in this country may be sick of the German football love in taking place at the moment (the Bundesliga boasts the claim to be the first and only league which has a highlights show on state television in North Korea) but the way in which they legislate on club ownership shows that they feel the same way about the responsibility football has.
Fans have to make up to 51% of the board so that they are always consulted and have the final word on executive decisions, while multinational companies fight over the remaining 49% in exchange for the financial backing the club requires.
Antonia Hagemann, head of Supporters Direct, says, "Democratic structures mean clubs are run openly and transparently; boards are held accountable, there is a certain stability in place, ownership doesn't change so democratically run clubs tend to follow a longer term vision”.
It would be impossible to get back the reigns of power from club owners in the Premier League now, but when FFP comes in it will at least begin to ensure that they build their structures around a sound financial plan.
In the same way in which Claridges has outlived the thousands of other unremarkable hotels in the capital, Arsenal is a club who will be around for generations to come and will be unique in the way with which it aims for excellence and a style while maintaining a trust and responsibility with it’s loyal fans.
Should Arsenal fans be proud of the way their club is being run?
image: © lodekka