Once again, Arsenal look set to revolutionise the way football clubs in England operate with the development of the ‘Fanshare’ scheme. While the model is commonplace in Spain and Germany, the Gunners are set to become the first English club to adopt the system.
This week the club’s four major shareholders backed a move for plurality of ownership, allowing groups of supporters to band together and purchase fractions of shares, making the staggeringly priced securities within reach of the masses. As well as providing the opportunity for fans to have their say in how the club is run, the move sends out a strong message about the future stability of the club. That the four major shareholders agreed to the scheme appears to rule out any imminent takeover, despite the ensuing tug-of-war between Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov. Kroenke and Usmanov’s battle for control of the club has resembled the struggle between the USA and USSR during the Cold War. Each has demonstrated sufficient strength and commitment to prevent the other side from assuming control, resulting in a tense stalemate. The new scheme could begin to thaw this frosty atmosphere.
The rather more warm and friendly concepts of representativeness and plurality of ownership aim to secure the club from a hostile takeover, and prevent the scenes of supporter unrest witnessed at Manchester United and Liverpool being replicated at the Emirates. The scheme does not aim to assume total control over the club, but merely that the voices of supporters are heard at the highest level. The ultimate aim of the initiative is to gain over 25% of the shares, thereby blocking any special resolutions at board level, providing a significant right of veto for the most important matters. Passing this milestone would represent a scything counter-attack in true Arsenal style, taking a stand against the oppressive financial influences on the sport. But for now, the attached representation at the club’s AGM is enough motivation.
Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) identified: “Custodianship is our responsibility as Arsenal fans to look after the club’s values and spirit, and keep them safe for future generations.” This sentiment sits well with the club’s overall development under Arsene Wenger’s stewardship. Growth has been steady, but importantly it has been sustained, ensuring above all the future safety of the club, whilst maintaining the values important to fans and the local community alike. With Liverpool and Manchester United heavily in debt whilst Chelsea and Manchester City are propped up by oligarchs, the Gunners have remained prosperous off the field and competitive on it. The strong ethos and principles emanate from the fluid passing style on the pitch, right through to the commendable work the club does in the local community and the Fanshare scheme is the next logical step. Payton went on to point out: “Arsenal supporters are fortunate that our club structure allows this opportunity to exist. No doubt supporters at many other Premier League clubs would love a similar opportunity to play a part in their ownership structure,” a timely reminder that it is not only the AST acting in supporters’ interest, but the club has itself made this innovative venture possible.
Arsenal are taking a similarly revolutionary appraoch to matters on the field. A club spokesman confirmed to A Different League that the Gunners would be utilising GPSports’ data tracking systems this season in an attempt to avoid injury and fatigue to their players. The system compiles basic data such as distance covered to more sophisticated concepts such as measuring the pressure exerted by feet to determine if players are ‘heavy-legged.’ Whilst it will take several months of use to build up a sufficient body of data, the system is a positive step towards addressing a recurrent problem at the club. Samir Nasri’s knee injury was sustained during the match against Liverpool and appears to be impact related rather than attributable to poor conditioning or the training methods employed, although this will be scant consolation to Wenger who will be without arguably his most in-form player.
Nasri’s absence may dovetail with the return of Cesc Fabregas, in which case the Frenchman’s absence will not be so keenly felt. However, having recovered from a broken leg to travel to South Africa, Fabregas made only fleeting appearances for Spain and his preparations for the current season have been hampered. Whether he is risked against Blackpool remains to be seen, but even at this early stage injuries appear to be taking their toll.