Arsenal’s annual general meeting was recently held, and as usual it was fairly contentious. Club chairman Chips Keswick even threatened to halt the meeting following a serious grilling over a £3m payment made to majority shareholder Stan Kroenke’s company – Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
The £3m fee has been paid to KSE for the second season in a row, with the payment allegedly for “strategic and advisory services” (via The Guardian). While fans are a little put off by the money being taken out of the club – especially given the amount we pay for admission and the limited expenditure we saw this past transfer window – the main issue is the fact that the payments have gone almost entirely unexplained.
Sir Chips was consistently questioned over the payments, but his vague responses only served to further frustrate shareholders. Chips himself grew annoyed too, and even threatened to cut the AGM short.
“I felt it was right to pay a fee for a wide range of services provided by KSE,” he said, as quoted by The Guardian.
“We should not be in a position where we expect these things to come for nothing – that would not be good governance. I would remind you that KSE is one of the most respected sports organisations in the United States. This has contributed to our positive evolution in a number of areas. Finally, I’d remind everyone that we have a majority owner who is respectful of our traditions.”
His response did very little to calm the shareholders, and instead drew a further – and harsher – line of questioning: “Is there a written contract or is it like Platini and Blatter’s verbal agreement?”
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Sir Chips was clearly put off by the comparison, and responded angrily: “I am not Mr Platini, I am not Mr Blatter, and there is not a written whatever-you-wanted because as I have explained, good advice is where you can get it and how you get it and if you get good advice then you succeed. If you don’t get the right advice, then you fail.
“You cannot codify how many times we have taken advice or how we have taken them. I will make no attempt to do so except to say we get the best advice as quick as we possibly can, and if you want proof of what that is worth, you can look at this [nodding to the FA Cup], look at that [the Community Shield], and look at our accounts.
“I don’t know how many of you here run your own businesses but those of you who do will know that the best advice you can get is the quick advice from people – and this is the point – in other organisations know more about the problem than you do. If you are a humble enough to accept that then you go and you get good advice. That is precisely what we do at the Arsenal with KSE.”
While many fans are calling for change, most just want clarification and straight answers from the board. We accept that we aren’t like your Manchester Citys, your Chelseas, or your Paris Saint-Germains, and we can’t afford to throw money around willy nilly. We would like to know where the money we do spend is going though, and that doesn’t seem like a huge amount to ask.
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There probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue if we saw some serious expenditure, but instead we’ve been left short following yet another transfer window. Petr Cech was our sole summer signing, when a striker and a defensive midfielder were badly, badly needed. Until that changes Sir Chips can expect more of the same from fans and shareholders, and rightly so.