Arsenal held their Annual General Meeting today, and true to form, it was an exercise in theater. For those unfamiliar, an AGM is something companies do once a year (it’s right there in the name!) as an exercise in “hey we’re listening to our shareholders and their concerns”, and in a lot of cases, those shareholders can bring things to the floor for a vote, or at least feel like they’re being heard and on some level paid some respect.
The problem with that in Arsenal’s case is that the single biggest shareholder in Arsenal is the owner. The second biggest, who doesn’t attend these meetings, is the minority owner. After those two, there are just sort of table scrap-level shares available to the “public”, and even those aren’t openly traded - there’s a very small number of them and they’re not generally available for sale.
What this all means in the context of an AGM is that it’s a meaningless exercise - the shareholders that go have no power whatsoever and no say in how the club is run, so, while required by law, Arsenal’s AGM is a particularly empty gesture.
Yesterday, the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust said they’d attempt to hold Arsenal to account and demand that Stan Kroenke speak at the AGM. So, how’d that go?
This is how Arsenal's Annual General Meeting came to an end today... pic.twitter.com/nxiotq0LbH— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) October 26, 2017
So, now it’s time to ask “how did we get here?” I mean, it’s easy to explain from the playing side of things why fans are frustrated, and “STAN OUT” is easy shorthand for the business side. But there’s more to it than that, and it’s worth exploring.
Arsenal have always - even before Wenger, but very much so since him - been a club that has prized, cherished, nurtured, and protected its tradition. The Marble Halls, the East Stand, Herbert Chapman, etc. - Arsenal have always valued its history, almost more prominently (and certainly more publicly) than any other club. Arsenal, in short, are a product of their history rather than the other way around.
That attitude is shared by the current Arsenal board of directors, who guide the club based on those principles. They believe that they and they alone are the stewards of that tradition, and that they alone can guide the club based on the principles the team has operated under for 100 years now.
It’s that attitude, seemingly, that drives things like the reaction of Arsenal’s chairman Sir Chips Keswick in the clip above, summarily shutting down anything resembling a discussion they don’t want to have. It’s an ingrained superiority complex, and it comes from their perception that they are the only worthy bearers of the torch.
In that light, while it’s incredibly frustrating and extremely rude that Sir Chips would just cut off anything resembling a discussion at the knees before it had a chance to even start, it’s not surprising; he’s a by-product of the club’s identity and philosophy. That’s not to say fans should accept it, but they should absolutely understand that this is the way Arsenal chooses to deal with its fan base, for the most part, and adjust their feedback strategy accordingly.
Arsenal over the years have not been afraid to be seen as being incredibly stubborn. Whether that’s in transfer strategy, business dealings, or anything else, Arsenal do what Arsenal does the way they do it, and don’t concern themselves with such pesky things as common practices or innovation. They run the club their way, and it’s up to us to react to that because their methodology isn’t going to change.
I don’t for one minute write all this to suggest that we just shrug and go on about our days. But what we cannot do is excuse this as just being part and parcel of “Arsenal being Arsenal”. At a certain point, as long as Arsenal is still a publicly-traded entity with shareholders other than Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov to account for, this attitude and outright dismissal of legitimate concerns brought forth by people with an actual financial stake in the club needs to stop.
And until it does, it’s in the best interest of every fan and follower of the club to ensure moments like the one above don’t go unreported.