Despite title drought, Arsenal commits to prudence

In the Arsenal boardroom, maintaining a diligent financial

approach is as important as ending the team’s title drought.

Releasing the latest set of strong half-year results on Monday,

Arsenal demonstrated the financial benefits of resisting demands to

recklessly recruit players – even though it is facing an eighth

straight year without a trophy.

The American-owned club disclosed its cash reserves had risen

year-on-year to 123.4 million pounds, and that it made a net profit

of 14.9 million pounds ($23 million) in the six months to Nov. 30,

2012.

The regular profits are largely due to the annual departure of

top talent, with 42.5 million pounds ($64 million) generated in the

2012 offseason transfer window by selling players – much to the

annoyance of fans frustrated by the failure to reinvest

significantly.

It was the decision in August to sell striker Robin van Persie

to one of Arsenal’s biggest rivals, Manchester United, that

infuriated so many Gunners fans. The anger has only intensified as

Van Persie’s goals have helped United surge 12 points clear at the

top of the Premier League, while Arsenal is 21 points adrift in

fifth place.

Having been dumped out of the FA Cup and League Cup by

lower-league opposition, Arsenal’s title hopes now rest on

overturning a 3-1 deficit at Bayern Munich next month to reach the

Champions League quarterfinals.

Even in the face of widespread fan discontent, chairman Peter

Hill-Wood maintained Monday that the club wouldn’t veer from its

strategy and embark on spending sprees in the hope of winning a

first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.

”Our ability to compete at the top of the game here and in

Europe is underpinned by our financial performance, which gives the

club strength and independence,” Hill-Wood said. ”Our desire is

to make everyone connected with Arsenal proud of the club.

”We know that comes through winning trophies but also through

the way we do things, and that will remain our constant

guide.”

That ethos has enabled Arsenal, which is owned by U.S. sports

tycoon Stan Kroenke, to take a leading role in Europe and the

Premier League in driving through cost-control regulations to

ensure clubs are self-sustaining.

”The board remains fully committed to this path and the rest of

the football world is increasingly realizing the strength of this

model,” Hill-Wood said. ”As an early proponent, we welcome the

development of Financial Fair Play rules in the Premier League, in

addition to those adopted by UEFA … and we believe the

introduction of tighter financial regulation will assist all clubs

to compete while remaining financially responsible.”

Kroenke has previously insisted that the profit isn’t being

generated to enable him to draw a dividend from the club.

The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust responded to the half-year

financial results by repeating its call for ”better investment in

the team.”

Arsenal, however, said 40.9 million pounds ($62 million) was

invested in the six months to Nov. 30 in adding players to the

squad such as Santi Cazorla and extending various contracts,

including Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott.

The supporters’ trust has concerns that even if there was heavy

spending the right executives are not in place to ensure it is

invested wisely.

”The football decisions made on player investment, player

selection and player wage levels are not delivering a more

competitive team,” AST board member Tim Payton said. ”The AST

believes the club are financially well set to improve on the

decline of the last few seasons.

”The remaining question is whether it has the boardroom

leadership and football decision making expertise to make the money

count.”

Some fans have questioned the August 2011 investment by manager

Arsene Wenger in Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker, who have both

failed to strengthen the fragile defense.

The money available for transfers could be reduced if Arsenal

fails to qualify in May for the Champions League for a 16th

successive season. Arsene Wenger’s side is currently outside of the

four places for European club football’s premier competition.

And the latest financial results showed that turnover from

football activity had dropped 7 percent year-on-year to 106.1

million pounds ($160 million).