Skip to main content

"If you want some accessible but informative insight into football then I suggest you couldn't do better than the Political Economy of Football website, which is not only intelligible but comes with the added bonus of being written by Addicks fan Wyn Grant."
Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

Arsenal's prudent strategy


Arsenal have purused a strategy of only paying what they can afford, the problem is that they are the only top club acting in this prudent fashion.

There is two ways in which their strategy could work.   One is the oft repeated claim that 'the Premiership bubble will burst.'  But we have been hearing these claims for year.  If I had received a pound for every time I have heard it, I would have quite a sum of money.

One way in which it could burst is that television revenues fall.   But domestic revenues are likely to be stable at least in real terms, even given some setbacks in court cases over the use of decoders in pubs. Overseas revenues look to be increasingly buoyant.  The Asian market still has plenty of growth left and that in Africa is just getting under way.

The other possibility, which the cited article mentions, is that the supply of rich men ready to invest in a football club is bound to dry up.  But there's no sign of that yet and buying a top club is as big a prestige symbol as an ocean going yacht and arguably more fun.   The only downside risk is a major conflict in the Middle East, where most of the big money comes from, and that is a real possibility.

In any case Arsenal's strategy was never based on the Premiership bubble bursting.  Why should they want it to?  It is the key source of their revenues and their shares are predominantly owned by foreign investors.

Rather Arsene Wenger has always relied on the enforcement of the financial fair play rules, reducing the opportunity for other top clubs to splash the cash and putting them on a level playing field with Arsenal.  

But, as we have pointed out many times, this may not work out as hoped.   Uefa is not going to want to exclude too many top clubs from the Champions League or they will kill the golden calf.  Moreover, the whole concept, or at least its application in specific cases, is open to a legal challenge.

But Arsenal are not going to depart from their chosen path, certainly not while Wenger is in charge. Only time will tell whether they will be vindicated.   In the short term it must mean disappointment for their fans.