Sticky times for Arsenal & Toffees


Arsenal’s shambles of an annual meeting, which was shut down early, has pushed the second biggest shareholder close to the exit door.

Super rich Alisher Usmanov, who owns 30 per cent of the club, was appalled by the way chairman Sir Chips Keswick handled an angry meeting.

So, too, was (italics) The Times (end italics), who called him a “Victorian mill owner, talking down to his workers” and said he should resign.

Famous old Arsenal, who have not been out of the top flight since 1919, has become a powder keg of frustration in the recent seasons under their American owner Stan Kroenke, who holds 67 per cent of the Gunners’ shares.

It’s football’s version of a Cold War with Usmanov, a Uzbek-Russian, refusing him a seat on the Board and spurning the suggestion both should put money into the club to match the spending power of the Manchester pair and Chelsea.

Usmanov is a colourful character who built his business empire while in prison, serving six years for fraud. That conviction was quashed on appeal after he had served his time and after making peace with the Russian authorities, he settled in England a dozen years ago.

(Italics) The Sunday Times’ (end italics) ‘Rich List’ puts him down as the fifth wealthiest person in the country and estimates that last year alone his personal fortune went up by £4-billion – billions not millions – and that truly puts him in a different counting house to the rest of us.

Despite the feud, he voted alongside Kroenke at the shareholders’ meeting in a final bid to make peace with his rival.

If he is again rebuffed I’m assured he will sell up his Arsenal holding and put the proceeds into Everton.

This is more than a fanciful long shot of a thought, it’s just about a cold fact certainty. The big shareholder up there is Iranian born Farhad Moshiri who happens to be Usmanov’s business partner and best friend. Now a British passport holder, he lives in Monaco and flies into matches in his private jet.

A block of shares is waiting from Everton’s old owner, the impresario Bill Kenwright, who wants to stand down as chairman to become club president.

Just one further straw in the wind, Usmanov already sponsors Everton’s training ground.

The deal would have a profound effect on the power lines of the Premier League. The power has been slipping away from the North with the decline of Sunderland and Middlesbrough, but could now get a big revival on Merseyside, together with Manchester strengths, and if this all holds out, it could promise a new era with Everton having the backing to challenge for top spot.

The immediate task, though, is sorting out the mess of a season which has seen them drop towards the foot of the Premier League after finishing seventh last season.

That was seen as a springboard for their Dutch manager Ronald Koeman and he was authorised to make an extensive rebuild in the summer as they became the game’s fourth highest spender.

His immediate need was for a new spine and he made a good start bringing in Sunderland’s 23-year-old ’keeper Jordan Pickford for around £30-million but failed to replace the scoring power of Romelu Lukaku and also found himself short of a decent centre back.

As he took on the challenge of embedding his new line-up, he faced in his first five matches visits to the two Manchester clubs and champions Chelsea as well as a home fixture with Spurs.

Manchester United, meanwhile, eased their way into the campaign with a much more relaxed early run on paper before meeting their first real challenge with the visit to Liverpool in their eighth match.

Anxiety quickly became a crisis for Koeman and the 5-2 home hammering against Arsenal a week ago saw him become the third Premier manager of this young season to be out of work.

Fated in May, hated in October. The routine almost writes itself when the results go wrong but was it justified?

In the last nine games of the old season Everton took 11 points. In the first nine of this campaign up to his dismissal, they collected eight but the lifeline had slipped away.

 

Another bad week at the office for the hapless pair who run the Football Association.

Between them chairman Greg Clarke and his chief executive Martin Glenn have made a couple of grovelling public apologies.

One was for suggesting the racial abuse of an England women’s team member was a bit of “fluff” on a coat to be flicked away.

The other was for an attack on the Players’ Association which brought the threat of legal action.

Clarke, though, touched on one moment of truth and that is that the public has lost faith in the FA.

So has the sports minister, Tracey Crouch, who has seen her support for meaningful reform largely ignored.

She knows the body, which was once the leading light of the sporting establisment, is now so very 19th Century. Football is in need of a new format which would bring in a powerful Commissioner to oversee both the FA and the Football League which includes the Premier League.

Issues which need urgent attention range from the foreign ownership of our clubs to the independence of disciplinary hearings where the FA appoint the panel to hear the case and then act as a prosecutor.

Crouch is hesitating because she fears FIFA sanctions if there is any hint of Government interference.

There is nothing, though, to prevent her talking to the world body about much needed reforms.

These, though, would have to be put forward by the FA which brings up the seasonal challenge of asking turkeys for Christmas.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.