AST poll reveals unsurprising supporter disillusion

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The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust has published the results of its second annual survey with the findings candidly reflecting the frustrations of another season without silverware at the Emirates.

The questionnaire, which covered a broad range of club policy issues from ownership structure to on-field playing philosophy, was sent to all of the Trust’s 850 members at the end of the season with 45% returning it before the allotted deadline.

For an organisation devoted to safeguarding supporter involvement in decision making at Arsenal, concerns about the manner in which Stan Kroenke intends to run the club following his takeover are noticeably reflected in the responses.

96% of AST members made clear they are keen to see the American improve his communication with fans while also wanting to see him outline his ambition for the club and the methods he intends to use to achieve them. 78% also felt that Kroenke Sports Enterprises should be more transparent in publicising how it raised the finance to purchase the club.

Having secured a 64% stake in the club Kroenke holds more than double the number of shares accumulated by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. However, despite the latter reaching a 29% shareholding in Arsenal he has yet to be offered a place on the board of directors. Given the near duopoly in ownership, AST members were asked whether Usmanov’s Red and White Holdings should be given representation in the boardroom. 70% answered in the affirmative, a figure up a staggering 30% from last year.

In part this huge shift is likely to have been influenced by the AST’s desire to see plurality of ownership firmly established, although with 38% of members eager to see financial investment by the club’s two major shareholders it hints that the Russian’s increased popularity could be down to his huge wealth and the prospect of Arsene Wenger being able to use a handout to strengthen his squad.

Having not won a trophy since 2005, AST members were asked whether they would like to see the long-standing Arsenal fan and close confidante of Arsene Wenger, David Dein, reinstated to a football-related position at the Emirates.

David Dein
David Dein: popular with AST members

69% of respondents confirmed that they would like to see Dein back, although the 17% who rejected the idea did so citing the reasons behind his initial dismissal while also hinting that it was time for current CEO Ivan Gazidis to take on more responsibility in man managing Arsene Wenger’s affairs. Members were not polled on whether or not they would like someone other than Dein to be appointed to a similar position.

Supporter disappointment in the Arsenal squad’s failure to end the trophy drought also shines through in the results of the questionnaire.

In 2010 when asked to measure their approval of the recent success of Arsene Wenger’s side, 50% responded that they were satisfied, 29% slightly satisfied and 11% unsatisfied. After another collapse in the final third of the season including a last minute defeat in the Carling Cup final and a slip to fourth place in the Premier League only 22% felt satisfied at the end of the 2011 season, while 39% felt slightly satisfied. Most worryingly 37% of AST members made clear they were unsatisfied with performance on the pitch.

Asked if the board should reconsider its confidence in Wenger if the club fails to win any trophies next season, 42% stated ‘yes’ and 40% ‘no’. 18% of respondents ticked the ‘don’t know’ option indicating a tear between appreciating Arsene Wenger’s achievements at the club and a fear that he may not be able to restore the club to the top of the Premier League.

Looking ahead to the future, only 8% of respondents felt extremely optimistic about the future performance of the team on the pitch (down from 26% ahead of the 2010/11 season), 35 % remained optimistic, 26% unsure, 20% somewhat pessimistic and 11% pessimistic (up 10% from this time last year).

The full survey can be downloaded here.

Selected quotes

 

The two main shareholders should work together. Minority shareholders and Fanshare members should be retained and AFC could develop a model of ownership that other clubs would aspire to.

On balance, I would have preferred Red & White to take over as I believe Usmanov is an Arsenal supporter so his agenda may not be solely based on profit

Give Kroenke the benefit of the doubt. A ‘self-glorifying fan’ owner would not be desirable and he seems to have a good track record

The question is, if Red & White were on the Board would this be constructive? The signs are that the difference in approach might cause disharmony

Wenger needs to accept that he has taken on too much. Be brave and accept that help is needed

I am mystified by the players’ lack of motivation in the closing stages of the season when so much was within their grasp

I love Wenger’s football philosophy; it is truly magnificent and has given me great pleasure. My only criticism is that the team needs some experienced players, especially defensively

It’s difficult to criticise Wenger or his great record but he has not strengthened the team with key players. What is needed is the Board to include someone who understands football – someone like David Dein

I would like an explanation of the last 5-6 years of underperformance and whether there was money for big signings or not and how much the exit of Dein was a factor

I do not think Dein has some magic touch – he served the club well in his time but things have moved on now and Gazidis seems to fulfil much of his former role with considerable expertise

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