Sunday, August 18, 2013

Arsenal fans' group writes to Gazidis detailing 'deep concern' over state of club

The Black Scarf Movement issues the Gunners' chief executive with a damning open letter after perceived transfer failures saw the north Londoners beaten by Aston Villa on Saturday

A group of disgruntled Arsenal fans have written an open letter to chief executive Ivan Gazidis, expressing their "deep concern" with the state of the club.

The Gunners' 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the Premier League season prompted the move, with a failure to act in the transfer market chief among the worries held by the Black Scarf Movement.

The open letter in full:

Dear Ivan,

We write to you as

Arsenal's largest and fastest-rowing supporters' group, to convey our deep concern at the current state of our team going into the new season.

In early June, around season ticket renewal time, you were widely quoted following your Q&A event where you spoke about the club's new financial firepower and ambition moving forward. Many fans saw this as the club finally about to break free from the shackles of moving stadium; new commercial deals were coming into place, we had a vast amount of cash available in the bank, profit from the Queensland Road property project was secured, the vast increase in TV revenue was about to land on our doorstep, and after treading water since moving from Highbury it seemed as if we were finally going to push on.

What has happened since then is nothing short of a disgrace.

There have been noises coming out of the club over the summer that the market was slow, that other clubs weren't doing much, and that things take time if you're after top-quality players. We feel all of these were poor excuses, designed to deflect focus away from our shortcomings.

The only positive of the summer has been the release of many players who were generally considered 'dead wood' – and naturally this frees up more cash for investment in the team. But with the departure of these players, virtually no movement has come in the opposite direction and we're now left with a squad severely lacking in depth and experience. Indeed, the squad registered for the Champions League in the last week had to be padded out with kids.

As a group we have been concerned for some time that the Board running our club has lost sight of the raison d'etre - i.e. we are Arsenal Football Club; not a business purely focused on posting profits year after year.

You will have seen the results of our end-of-season survey, which came out in favour of Arsene Wenger but with 70 per cent stating that he has too much control over transfer negotiations and setting of wage levels at the club. The same survey revealed that 87% of fans feel the current board of Arsenal is out of touch with the feeling among fans and that 73% feel less valued by the club since we moved stadium.

It is our view as a group that the board of Arsenal is too relaxed about the competitiveness of our team, and that as long as a top-four place is secured, it is a case of 'job done'. This should never be the case but, despite hearing you say you're not happy every time we end a season with nothing to really cheer about, nothing changes.

So in June following your statement of intent, fans were rightly hopeful but what has happened since then? Yet again we've spent the summer dithering while others around us have strengthened, and once more we start the season playing catch-up. With five competitive matches due before the transfer window closes, there is every chance that our season could be dealt a hammer blow before we've had a chance to take stock, and this weekend's defeat at home to Aston Villa should act as a huge wake-up call.

We are now in a situation where we're faced with a carbon copy of 2011, where it took an 8-2 humiliation at Manchester United to force a 'trolley dash' on the final day of the transfer window. Of course by then it was too late. For Arsenal to be in that situation once is unacceptable; for it to happen twice in three years will be unforgivable.

It is imperative that the board of Arsenal does its job and manages the Manager – an employee of the club you are supposed to be running. What are Arsene Wenger's targets / KPIs set by the Board every year? Is the he not even answerable to the board, with free rein to do as he pleases as long as he helps the business achieve a profit? Is he having to do all the running himself when it comes to transfers or if support is there, is he taking it? Clarity is required here because something clearly isn't right at the club when it comes to the acquisition of new players.

You put all the focus on the Arsene Wenger yourself at that Q&A session in June, but to fans there is little evidence of questions being asked of him; this despite approaching the end of the transfer window with no sign of needed, established quality coming in. Does the board feel that it's been a good summer? Because we've now lost our opening game of the season, our squad is already blitzed by injury, once more today there were fans coming to blows in the stands. As a board member, does this even bother you?

Of course if we used the funds we do have available, brought in top-quality players and competed for prizes, in would come better commercial deals, you wouldn't have as much trouble trying to get corporate punters back into the stadium, and naturally the more successful we are it becomes easier to attract better players. Or is the board too short-sighted to realise this?

A competitive team isn't one which scrapes the position of fourth-best team in the league on the final day of the season and gets dumped out of domestic cup competitions by lower-league opposition; you need to realise that most fans are aware of this fact. They're not duped by finishing in a position which may result in us playing in the Champions League. So what, if the cash from that competition is simply banked and never sees the light of day?

It should be noted that as long term fans of The Arsenal we've seen plenty of lean times and poor teams over the years. Silverware isn't the be-all and end-all; we follow this club out of pure love and will always do so. However, loyal matchgoing fans continue to walk away from the Emirates Stadium, unwilling to part with their hard-earned cash when they feel let down and lied to by our board. We pay the highest ticket prices in football after being sold a dream, but it's always a case of 'jam tomorrow' and many have seen through the spin.

Enough is enough.

If the board is actually intent on making Arsenal a successful force in football once again, changes have to be made. Arsene Wenger should have experienced, qualified support to help bring in top-quality players, and he needs to be managed effectively if the right business isn't being done.

Or if the board is simply intent on milking the Arsenal brand for all its worth to the detriment of the team (but to the benefit of our bank account), season-ticket prices at Emirates Stadium should be reduced accordingly. Our loyal fans should no longer have to bear the burden after doing so for many years.

Make no mistake, if there is not significant improvement in our playing squad over the next couple of weeks, the rapidly growing anger in the stands will become difficult to overturn. There hasn't been a poisonous atmosphere like this at Arsenal for over 30 years and the board has simply stood by, while things have gone from bad to worse. I am sure you appreciate, this can no longer happen.

We look forward to your response in due course.

Yours faithfully,

Where Has Our Arsenal Gone (the Black Scarf Movement)