What you should know about the clever leak of Saturday's news and how much of it you should believe
It took me a bit by surprise Saturday evening, as I was getting ready to go get some takeout BBQ from this place. Seeing the words "Arsenal," "buyout," £1.5b" and "Qatar and UAE consortium" looked weird and out of place. The figure alone made me step back and take pause. "Holy s-word," I thought. Visions of a midfield that featured Wilshere along with some of the world's best, all bought at stratosphere transfer fees, feeding Neymar and Falcao through balls over-and-over again until their little goal-scoring hearts content and the scoreline showed that Arsenal should always be considered one of the strongest and richest clubs in the world danced briefly in my head. Until I started to do the math.
Let's recap, if you're one of the few on this planet who hasn't heard the news thus far, shall we? In Sunday's Telegraph, leaked Saturday late afternoon here in the States (late evening in the UK), Jason Burt broke an exclusive, using the ever-infamous bid source as their basis behind the story, that Arsenal are poised to be offered £1.5 billion for 100% of shares, which would make this the biggest sale of a sports franchise in the history of forever:
The group do not want their identities made public yet but a bid source told Telegraph Sport the intention is to buy out Arsenal’s American owner, Stan Kroenke, whose perceived weak stewardship of the club has also been called into question by frustrated supporter groups.
The cash offer, which is more than twice the amount at which Arsenal were valued two years ago, will be for 100 per cent of the club, and if successful would wipe out debts that stand at around £250 million according to the last full year’s financial results.
I'll be honest with you and let you know I've struggled over the past couple days to come up with an eloquent way to put how far-fetched this is, and I'll concede that there might be a sliver of truth hidden in what I believe to be the Mount Kilimanjaro of rabbit turds because if there's one club in the world currently that will always be susceptible to a high-dollar bid, it's Arsenal. But let's take a step back and state some facts, shall we?
For starters, the leak came on the eve of a North London derby match when there were no other matches played in the EPL that day. The night before a match that suddenly had a bit of significance; Arsenal in the throes of a tumultuous season lacking any sort of consistency or identity for months on end while sitting in a table position of despair in comparison to past seasons, while Tottenham suddenly looked to be a major force to be reckoned in the hunt for the elusive Champions League qualification spots on the back of Gareth Bale's left foot. What a better way to get your message across to the globe, to fans all over that Arsenal are ripe for the picking, than to do it as the spotlight shines on Stan Kroenke and his perceived sinking ship with a damning incrimination that his position as major shareholder is there for the taking.
Further, let's take some of the unnamed bid source's statement apart:
According to a bid source, there would be substantial transfer funds made available to transform the club into a major force in European and world football. There would also be a pledge to reduce ticket prices at the Emirates Stadium — currently among the highest in the world — as well as an attempt to recreate "some of the feel of the old North Bank" at Highbury.
The bid team has noted the damage caused by Kroenke, who owns two-thirds of the club, refusing to engage with Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who owns 29.96 per cent.
It is unlikely Usmanov will want to sell his shareholding, given his "dream" of taking control of Arsenal himself, but the Middle East consortium believes it will be able to work with the billionaire, who does not currently have a seat on the board and who has been frustrated in his attempts to get more involved.
Look at a couple of these claims in the article (there was a strong likelihood that Tim Payton got violently aroused while reading this, by the way). "Substantial transfer fees;" "reduce ticket prices in an attempt to 'recreate some of the feel from the old North Bank' at Highbury." Going at length to point out that Kroenke's done damage to the club by refusing to invite Alisher Usmanov to sit on the Board, while saying that this mystery group would be willing to work with Usmanov in the event of a takeover. It's like they were saying all the right things to the group of supporters who want the club to spend as much money as possible, who complain about ticket prices, who disagree with every decision the Board makes, regardless if there's any sort of positive benefit derived from their actions. Essentially, it appears that the unnamed bid source spent the past four months doing nothing but reading Piers Morgan's awful Twitter account and took notes on what to say in order to sway public opinion.
Also, there's this!
A bid source told Telegraph Sport: “Arsenal is at a pivotal position at the moment. The fear is that the club is facing a cycle of decline like Liverpool. From our point of view it is the perfect moment to make this bid because at this moment in time you can still genuinely justify this extraordinary valuation on the club.
“We will not bid for Arsenal if they go into decline. Kroenke and Usmanov will not get this kind of valuation if Arsenal do not succeed and will not get this kind of valuation ever again.
Excuse me, but no. Hell no. There is nothing to compare Arsenal and Liverpool right now, nor does table position - in any way - dictate total club value (just ask Manchester City that). While Liverpool reported an increase in their net debt earlier today, Arsenal continues to expand commercial revenues and are on the brink of adding a new kit deal that will increase their revenue in that field by nearly five times their current rate. If anything, today's announcement from Merseyside should tell all sensible people that success isn't guaranteed if you spend money in the transfer market on high-wage players. The season hasn't gone the way we all wanted it to, but that's not an indictment on sustainability in any way, shape or form. Arsenal have made it a priority to grow commercial revenues in order to provide more money for transfers and wages than in previous seasons - previous seasons that saw relative success compared to the sporting landscape in which they played in. Sustainability isn't nearly as sexy as having some sugar daddy driving Brinks trucks up to the Emirates in a crude way of winning at, literally, all costs.
This bid source is grasping at straws in an attempt to force Kroenke's hand at selling while the going's good. Thing is, the good will continue to be going as long as Arsenal move further away from their initial long-term commercial deals that helped secure financing for Emirates Stadium.
While I'm not one to play Conspiracy Theorist, I'm not ruling out Alisher Usmanov's involvement in this leak. He chimed in the day after The Statement to complain about Stan Kroenke and the Board, he chimed in the day after the release of the financial statements last September to complain about Stan Kroenke and the Board and he released a statement three days before the transfer window closed this past January, at a time when many thought the club wasn't going to buy anyone, to boast about his stance regarding his personal benevolence with transfer fees - all of it timed during the most crucial parts of Arsenal's season and off-season.
He knows when the media's ready to pounce on negative Arsenal storylines, and he recognizes that when the spotlight lingers on Stan Kroenke long enough, his fat ass won't have a problem bumping the American out of the way. Sure, he might not be directly-tied to this story, but the more I think about it the more I start to believe that he's just as manipulative as all the stories about him suggest.