Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for some employers to cut the fat off their operations and as brutal as it sounds, it’s just the stroke of a pen in some plush office by someone appointed to wield the axe. It happens to staff in every business, but fans of Arsenal were hoping that the club would be different, apparently it’s not.
There’s some accompanying waffle from the hierarchy and I’ll include that later in the piece, but let’s just pause for a moment to accept that the club is so far removed from its earlier moral model that it’s almost unrecognisable. During the pandemic, the Arsenal staff was asked to take a 12.5% pay cut to ensure that the club remained financially viable and to protect jobs but many inside and outside the club now feel betrayed and duped by the conniving Kroenke.
Arsenal have a turnover of around £367.5m and fans will look at the unforgivable waste over the last 18 months which includes carrying on with an excessively large squad, some of which wasn’t fit for purpose. The changes made behind the scenes have included the appointments of data analysts and obviously, there have been a series of tweaks to the ever-morphing management structure. None of which work for the national minimum wage!
Talking of waste, Arsenal paid Unai Emery £4m in compensation, Wenger was dispatched with a golden goodbye of £11m. They were also obligated to pay playing staff that would never even get a game. Özil, possibly the worst offender on £350,000 a week and players such as Sokratis earning a rather ordinary-looking £108,000. Going back a bit further, the Former CEO Ivan Gazidis trousered a reported £22 million over a disastrous 10 years. Talk about money for nothing!
Everywhere you look, there are examples of waste and there has been for years. Arsenal have 8 centre-backs on the books where four would do but they’ve been disorganised and have allowed the driftwood to continue milking the club.
In terms of the contract process, it has been utterly dire. Using Aaron Ramsey as a prime example, his contract was allowed to run down until he was able to leave the club on a free. At that stage, no club would have blinked at a price tag of £20m for a proven box-to-box player.
Alexis Sanchez was similar, his contract was permitted to lapse and Arsenal had to scramble into a swap with Manchester United for Henrikh Mkhitaryan when they perhaps could have banked £30m. What about the pitiful and ill-conceived loan deal for Dennis Suarez for around £10m or the loan of the injured Cedric Soares. Both Soares and Mari were loaned and then purchased, which makes little or no sense at all.
I can sense at this point that some readers are going to talk about financial stability in unpredictable times, but what about loyalty? What about decency? How about pruning with natural waste such as retirement or accommodating a percentage in other roles?
It’s fairly simple from where I’m standing, this is down to a series of glaring oversights and bad management at Arsenal which has resulted in 55 non-playing staff redundancies at the worst possible time.
Among the casualties is head of international scouting Francis Cagigao, head of UK scouting Peter Clark and scout Brian McDermott, who are highly experienced in their roles and will no doubt find another employer, but what about those not so fortunate?
Arsenal is changing, it’s lost its spiritual home (Highbury) and now it’s heart and soul, as it increases the salaries at the top and dispenses with those considered ‘non-essential’.
Television presenter Piers Morgan, whom I rarely agree with on anything, pitched in by tweeting:
“Arsenal firing 55 staff when we’re owned by a multi-billionaire, have just made £££ by winning the FA Cup and qualifying for Europe, and pay Mesut Ozil £350k-a-week to sit on his a***, is morally indefensible and not what I expect from a club with our heritage.”
On this occasion, I agree with ‘rent a gob’ Ally McCoist, who said on Talksport:
“Morally it’s a big own goal no matter how you look at it.”
“I don’t think you can defend it, you really can’t.”
“It’s indefensible to think, for example, that scout who has been at Arsenal for what, 30 years? They are the fabric of the club, players come and go…”
We should certainly have seen it coming as Stan Kroenke, a modern version of Robin Hood, squeezed out Alisher Usmanov (2018) and completed a compulsory share purchase order from fourth-generation fans, who had absolutely who no intention of selling because they’d been in their family for so long.
It seems that there is no place for sentiment at Arsenal and when the news of staff redundancies was released, it came with a spineless statement devoid of any real regret. The club’s statement said:
“Our aim has been to protect the jobs and base salaries of our people for as long as we possibly can. Unfortunately, we have now come to the point where we are proposing 55 redundancies.”
“We do not make these proposals lightly and have looked at every aspect of the club and our expenditure before reaching this point. We are now entering the required 30-day consultation period on these proposals.”
It went on:
“We know this is upsetting and difficult for our dedicated staff and our focus is on managing this as sensitively as possible.”
And it ended:
“These proposed changes are ultimately about ensuring we take this great football club forward, creating the right organisation for a post-COVID world, and ensuring we have the resources to return to competing effectively at the top of the game here and in Europe.”
Of course, it was the timing of this news that many found particularly upsetting. Not even a week after turning their season around by winning the FA Cup and opening the door to the Europa League next season, they bluntly announced the redundancies to ‘non-playing staff’.
Why not go the whole hog and put the admission prices up while you’re at it or make the replica lots more expensive. I recall commenting on the abundance of analysts behind the scenes in a blog back in November 2018, when I said:
“It appears that as the game has developed, managers and assistants who were mainly responsible for training and fitness are now almost obsolete in the modern game. They have been replaced by a plethora of individuals that would be the envy of the European space agency.
Along with the usual first-team coach, assistant manager, and goalkeeping coach, there is a head of performance, a sports scientist, numerous physios, and even a soft tissue therapist. Not the Kleenex variety.
Then there’s a gang of analysts, analysing the stuff analysts analyse including a video and data analyst and there’s even a data scientist.”
You can preach to me all you like about business, profit, and streamlining but people are more important and Arsenal used to look after their own. Not anymore! Arsenal players are also unhappy about the redundancies having accepted a reduction in pay to prevent job losses of staff members and they are said to be keen to discuss the matter with the club.
Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin are thought to be the representatives for the players, but one senses that they will be served a platter of excuses behind a smokescreen of bullshit!
I understand Arsenal have to have a sound financial plan but to date, they haven’t been able to find one that prevents needless waste. Arsenal were the classy club that went the extra mile for people, a family run club that always did the right thing.
They still managed to win things with a strong ethical and moral code that often shamed others, but over recent years, we have seen a decline, not just in performance on the field but behind the scenes.