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Peter Hill-Wood, ex-Arsenal chairman, dies at 82

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A sad loss for the Arsenal family.

New Arsenal Emirates Stadium Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The fact that soccer clubs are big businesses and not community assets or small-scale neighborhood operations is often bemoaned these days. The game has become so globalized that it’s largely irrelevant to a vast number of fans whether you grew up following a club, or whether the love of that club was handed down to you from your parents, who got it from their parents, and so on back through time. This is not a bad thing - after all, very few of us reading this site can claim that kind of fan lineage. It is, however, something notable when there’s a disruption to that lineage, as it was announced there was today.

Peter Hill-Wood served as Arsenal’s chairman from 1982 until 2013, when he was replaced by Sir Chips Keswick. But that sentence only tells a very, very small part of a much larger story. Hill-Wood’s father, Denis Hill-Wood, was chairman before Peter (Peter assumed the chair on the death of his father), and his grandfather Samuel was chairman from 1929 until 1949 (with a 10 year interruption for the war). So Arsenal are, in a lot of senses, a Hill-Wood family business.

But even more than that, Peter Hill-Wood was instrumental in both making Arsenal what they are today and making the Premier League what it is. Hill-Wood’s business background - prior to taking his role at Arsenal, he was head of the now-defunct Hambros Bank - was one of the main reasons he was brought in to Arsenal. He was brought to the club from the bank by a former colleague at the bank, the aforementioned Sir Chips.

In addition to being fundamental to the formation and growth of the Premier League as a whole, Hill-Wood proved instrumental in Arsenal’s growth, and when it came to building a new home, Hill-Wood’s network of contacts in the London banking and finance world was crucial in the successful conception and completion of what is now the Emirates Stadium.

Hill-Wood was also responsible for the appointment of Arsenal’s two greatest modern managers - George Graham and Arsene Wenger - and the club’s record with him as chairman (five league championships, five FA Cups, two League Cups and the European Cup Winners’ Cup) will be hard for any subsequent chairman to replicate.

While he played no role with Arsenal in the last few years, his legacy assures that he’s still a huge part of the Arsenal family, and he will be missed.