Who was behind Arsenal take-over bid rumours?

After Arsenal’s disappointing 2-1 defeat to rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the North London derby, rumours of a ‘take-over’ bid of the club were plastered all across the back pages.

In fact, some of the press coverage on this ‘story’ began last Sunday morning – before the game kicked off – but the club have since released an official statement denying that any bid had been made.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood came out this week to reveal:

“I have heard nothing and I don’t think anybody knows anything about it at the club. It all seems a bit of a waste of time. If there is this consortium, they can’t make any progress unless they attempt to get in touch. So I can’t say if there is anything to it or not. But even if they did make an approach, my understanding is our two major shareholders do not want to sell.”

Yet somehow The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Mirror amongst numerous other established media institutions seemed to believe otherwise.

Firstly, where were they getting their information? It obviously wasn’t from the club and, as Martin Samuel pointed out this week, when very rich men like Roman Abramovich or Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan buy a football club they don’t tend to speak to the press about it – they speak to the club.

They keep their business interests so private that sometimes the club doesn’t even know who is actually buying it. Much the same goes for the Glazers take over of Manchester United; they conduct their business deals out of the spotlight.

So, with that in mind, why would a supposed ‘Middle East consortium’ from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar announce their intentions of spending a reported £1.5 billion on Arsenal Football Club to the press before they had even contacted the secretary of current majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – or anyone else at the club, for that matter?

Logic and reason prevail here – they wouldn’t – put simply, that is not the way extremely affluent people conduct themselves in public. In fact, they behave in the opposite manner. This ‘story’ was based on no fact whatsoever.

It was a well-timed public relations exercise undertaken by someone who a) wanted to sell papers or b) wanted to destabilize Arsenal and heap more relentless pressure from discontented fans.

The timing is important and I think it’s that which can give a greater insight into who and or what may have been behind a ‘rumour’ that was completely baseless.

When Robin van Persie released his statement on his website declaring that he would not be renewing his contract with the Gunners due to his disagreement with the way manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis were running the club, second-largest shareholder Alisher Usmanov released an open letter to Stan Kroenke less than 24 hours after the departed Dutchman released his.

He capitalized (or tried to) on uncertainty over the future of the club in the wake of a difficult time for the manager, the club, and their fans who were understandably confused, disappointed and concerned that their captain and star player wanted to leave.

Whilst I don’t doubt that Arsenal’s transfer policy could use some adaptation – they cannot continue to sell their best players to rival clubs if they want to count on their fans’ support much longer – rumours and stories concocted purely for the purpose of de-stabilizing the current owner’s position is only going to have the affect of destabilizing the club, its manager, its team, and its support.

Billionaires don’t care much about football – I don’t even know that they care much for watching it, to be frank – but they do care about their shares, they do care a hell of a lot about their investments and their bank balances.

There is, in my humble opinion, only one direction this mythical take-over bid could have come from and Arsenal don’t have to look very far from home to find the culprit.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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