|Edition 1 November 2003
Trust Holds First Meeting With Arsenal
AST Membership Growing
AST Buys First Arsenal Share
Arsenal Holdings PLC Annual General Meeting
Inaugural Arsenal Supporters' Trust Annual General Meeting
Next AST Board Meeting – 15 January 2004 - 6.00PM
Arsenal Supporters' Trust Christmas Drink - Sunday 14 December 2003
2004 AST AGM
New AST Phone Number/Contact Details
Arsenal Holdings Shares
TRUST HOLDS FIRST MEETING WITH ARSENAL
Arsenal Supporters' Trust (AST) representatives have met formally with Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman for the first time.
The meeting, which AST had been seeking for a considerable period, was attended by AST board members Richard Irving, Nigel Phillips and Glyn Taylor. The outcome was very positive for the Trust. Edelman agreed to report back to the full board recommending co-operation and further dialogue with AST.
During the meeting AST representatives raised a series of questions with Mr Edelman around the club's current finances, the proposed new stadium and club recognition of the AST.
AST MEMBERSHIP GROWING
AST membership continues to grow. AST members currently own 241 Arsenal Holdings shares personally, nearly half a percent of the club's total equity. Not bad from a standing start! Notable new members include renowned architect Own Luder, James Purnell MP, a season ticket holder, and Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North. At a local level Councillor Laura Willoughby, who is Islington Council cabinet member for communities has also signed up.
AST BUYS FIRST ARSENAL SHARE
AST has bought its first Arsenal share, investing £1,600.00 of AST members' (that's YOUR) money in equity in the club.
ARSENAL HOLDINGS PLC ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
If you were not able to attend the club shareholders' AGM a full report written by AST board member Glyn Taylor is available to all members on request.
The AST board had a team of six at the meeting which was chaired in his normal idiosyncratic style by Peter Hill-Wood.
In a departure from tradition however, two formal presentations were made to assembled shareholders. Managing director Keith Edelman (who was to later to be attacked by a shareholder for penny-pinching on everything except his own salary. The £1 charge for the club merchandise catalogue and £20 away ticket scheme charge being given as examples) gave a presentation on the accounts which showed a small surplus after a period of steep losses.
After questions, director Danny Fiszman (who owns close to a quarter of the club personally) made a presentation on the new stadium. Both presentations were supported with graphics and charts giving financial and technical information.
Both Edelman and Fiszman emphasized that the club would not lose money if the new stadium did not proceed. Property sales would cover the cost of land acquisitions and other expenses
incurred so far. The club also expected the decision on the appeals against the Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) associated with the development by the end of October 2003. Fiszman said that the club already owned all the land it needed to proceed with the new ground however. The remainder of the properties and land subject to the CPOs were all on the so-called "Queensland Road site" which, whilst extremely desirable for the overall regenerative effect of the development, was not essential for the stadium to proceed.
The major element left to resolve was the loan necessary to the development. Keith Edelman had been charged with seeking £260 million from a consortium of banks. Progress on this was good but, inevitably with such big sums involved, the loan approval process was long and complex. The board was looking to tie up the financing by the end of 2003 to allow construction to begin in the first quarter 2004. This would allow the new ground to open for the first match of the 2006/7 season. Interestingly, Keith Edelman said that the financial strategy developed by the board saw the proceeds of the sale of the current ground going into investment in the football club rather than on paying down debt on the new ground, the net cost of which to Arsenal was around £200 million taking into account profits from associated property developments. The cost of the entire project was around £400 million.
Shareholders pressed hard on the board's fall-back plans in the event of Ashburton Grove not proceeding for some reason. Hill-Wood was robust in saying that the board had not discussed the so-called "plan B" in any detail. This would only be addressed in the event of the current plans not going ahead. To do otherwise would mean having no credibility with the banks being approached to participate in the loan, he said.
Questioners then moved on to more general and football-related matters, a recurrent theme being the lack of chances being given to products of the club youth scheme. At this stage Arsene Wenger entered into proceedings for the first time. He defended his record saying that there were many good prospects coming through and he expected to see some of them featuring regularly in the first team in the near future. In a memorable summary of his position however, he said with young players you, "pay for education with points". The most amusing part of the AGM came when one shareholder referred to Rohan Ricketts who had signed from Arsenal for Spurs when his contract expired, citing lack of first team opportunities at Highbury. "He might be good enough for Tottenham" said Hill-Wood in best Old Etonian style.
Events at Old Trafford were referred to in a prepared statement from Hill-Wood and more passionately by Arsene Wenger. He felt that the club's disciplinary record had improved. It was difficult to balance the desired togetherness and team spirit needed whilst not letting this spill over into unacceptable behaviour. One shareholder who attempted to roundly condemn the players was greeted with barracking from many other shareholders.
As time wore on Hill-Wood was obviously looking forward to lunch. He peremptorily closed proceedings with many shareholders still wanting to raise questions. This caused some anger amongst those present. One AST member said, "This is the only opportunity we get to ask questions each year. Why do they think we're all here? I have had my hand up for nearly an hour. I took the afternoon off work for this?"
After the meeting AST board members took the opportunity to speak to David Dein and Danny Fiszman. They confirmed that Keith Edelman had reported back to the board and were positive in their comments on working with AST.
In the formal business of the meeting the annual report and accounts were approved without dissent on a show of hands. David Dein and Ken Friar were also re-appointed to the board without dissent.
The AST board will be reviewing the club AGM with a view to making constructive suggestions on how the meeting could be improved for both club and shareholders.
INAUGURAL ARSENAL SUPPORTERS' TRUST ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The first AGM of AST took place at the offices of top city solicitors Nabarro Nathanson in Holborn, central London on the evening of the club AGM.
The meeting re-elected Glyn Taylor, Nigel Phillips, Ernie Reyes, James Corbett, Tommy King, Paul Matz, Richard Irving and Steven Powell to the AST board. Colin Eastaugh was appointed as auditor.
A lively discussion on Arsenal issues took place after the formal business was concluded.
NEXT AST BOARD MEETING – 15 JANUARY 2004 - 6.00PM
The AST board wants all trust activities to be open and transparent to all members. The board has decided to open all board meetings up to attendance by any AST member.
We look forward to seeing any member who is interested. You are guaranteed a warm welcome! The meetings are informal and Victory Through Harmony can recommend the light refreshments. Trust us, they are a REAL treat! The main business of the meeting will be a paper on a development plan for AST. Here is your chance to have a say in how AST develops and grows in the coming months and years.
The next meeting will take place at the offices of Nabarro Nathanson, Lacon House, 84, Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8RW. The nearest Underground stations are Holborn (Piccadilly and Central lines) and Chancery Lane (Central line). Buses 19, 38, 55, 98 and 505 stop very near Lacon House on Theobald's Road in both directions (opposite westbound and adjacent eastbound).
Pay parking is available nearby (meters run until 8.00pm in this area). Remember Holborn is within the Congestion Charge zone which does not finish until 6.30pm on weekdays if coming by car. You have to pay the £5 charge by 10.00pm on each day you enter the zone.
ARSENAL SUPPORTERS' TRUST CHRISTMAS DRINK - SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 2003
We have organised an informal seasonal "drink" after the Blackburn Rovers home game on Sunday 14 December 2003. This will take place at The Bailey pub which is about 3 minutes walk from Highbury Corner on Holloway Road, N7 (corner of Furlong Road, N7).
We will be there from around 4.30pm after the game (2.00pm kick-off). Look forward to seeing you all there. There will be a welcome for all AST members and any non-members who would like to find out what we are all about. See you there!
2004 AST AGM
A number of members asked for more advance notice of the next AST AGM. The board will take this into account next year. We will be looking to set the date once next season's fixtures have been published. We'd also welcome suggestions on venues, days of the week, starting time and so on.
NEW AST PHONE NUMBER/CONTACT DETAILS
AST has a new phone number. From now on you can ring us 07709 718545
The postal address remains: Arsenal Supporters' Trust, P.O. Box 43314, London N5 2EN. The e-mail address is: email@example.com
AST is always on the lookout for volunteers to help with every aspect of the trust's work. We are particularly keen at the moment to find at least one and preferably more volunteers to build an AST website. We also need a friendly ISP to host the site for free or at a low cost.
We are also on the lookout for volunteers with graphic design skills (you can see from this newsletter that we're not overflowing in this department at the moment) who'd donate some time every year to design AST publications.
Victory Through Harmony would also like to acknowledge those members who have made personal donations totaling over £640 in cash and the equivalent of at least £10,000 in terms of time donated for free. We would also like to acknowledge Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association (AISA) which donated £1,000 towards our launch costs and Supporters Direct (the Government-backed not-for-profit company which promotes supporter ownership in football) which paid all the legal fees for our company registration as well as chipping in £900 towards our launch costs.
AST is just about to launch a drive for corporate members. Any Arsenal supporting business or organisation can join AST for an annual fee of £50. Contact us for further details.
We are also on the look-out for sponsors and other business partners for AST. All kinds of opportunities are on offer for the right partners. Get in touch soon!
As this edition of Victory Through Harmony went to press a number of newspaper stories were running about possible Russian investment in Arsenal.
AST would be delighted to hear members' views on this. Do write, ring or e-mail us with your opinions.
ARSENAL HOLDINGS SHARES
We cannot always promise to be in a position to buy instantly but we would be delighted to hear from any AST member with a personal Arsenal shareholding if and when you want to sell one or more of your shares. Just write, e-mail or phone us.
We would also be delighted to have any Arsenal shareholding member remember AST in his/her will. Leaving Arsenal Holdings shares to AST will be a permanent memorial to your support for Arsenal. We've already had one member pledge his shareholding. Get in touch for further details - Be an Arsenal supporter AFTER you die!