Season Ticket Renewals/New Part-Owner At Arsenal?

I was surprised at the balance of posts to my blog last Friday about my seriously not considering renewing my season ticket. I’ve got eight days to decide now until the renewal deadline next Tuesday 1 June 2010. I’ve still to hear from the club about my query on the amount of the refund for last season’s unused cup credit. I’ve now made a formal complaint about this under the club charter.
What surprised me was the number of those who posting who appeared to feel the same way as me. I thought it was just me being a grumpy old man. Apparently not. By the way having looked at my Friday blog again I can see how some people might have surmised that I’m on the dole. I’m not. How on earth anybody could think I could afford an Arsenal season ticket costing the best part of £2,000 living on £64.30 a week Jobseekers’ Allowance I have no idea. I’d have to not eat or pay any gas, electricity, water or telephone bills for over six months! Anybody who thinks its easy living on the dole has never tried it. I was unemployed for three months in 1978, my only period of unemployment since leaving school in 1974. It was NOT fun.
I heard an interesting South African writer called Kevin Bloom talking on BBC Radio 5 Live on the podcast of Up All Night on Saturday. He made the very astute observation that writing helps you work out what you think. That was certainly the case for me writing my blog last Friday. Thinking about the issue over the weekend I’m even more inclined towards not renewing. Those who read this blog regularly will know that I’m a big fan of South American football. I visit the continent as regularly as I can particularly Argentina and Uruguay where I have friends.
The way I’m thinking at the moment I’d rather concentrate my live football fix in a few weeks every year watching my beloved River Plate in Buenos Aires and Nacional in Montevideo. I’m not blind to the corruption and violence that blights the game in both countries. The passion of the fans there has to be experienced first-hand to be truly understood and appreciated though.
I remember watching the host nation’s games in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina on television over here. Due to the time difference most of them kicked off at 11.00pm British time. The first was Argentina versus Hungary. The ticker-tape welcome as Argentina came on the field made my hair stand up.
The game in Argentina had become besmirched by the negative; win at all costs tactics of Boca Juniors, Estudiantes de La Plata and Racing Club in their “take no prisoners” runs to  Copa Libertadores wins. The latter two are both remembered here for brutal performances against Manchester United and Celtic in the World Club Championship, then an unofficial tournament played over two home and away legs.
The Argentine national team had been embroiled in controversy after the England manager Alf Ramsey called them “animals” after England beat them in the quarter-finals, Argentine captain Antonio Rattín being sent off.
The game was refereed by the West German Rudolf Kreitlein, the West Germany v Uruguay quarter-final at Hillsborough being taken by Englishman Jim Finney. The England v Argentina match is still called el robo del siglo (the robbery of the century) in Argentina. Many conspiracy theories persist about how there was an “arrangement” by the Europeans to have the referees favour our continent’s teams. Finney sent off two Uruguayans at Hillsborough, with West Germany winning 4-2.
In 1978, Argentina was under the heal of a horrible, neo-fascist military junta. The Argentine team under coach César Luis Menotti played a style far more in keeping with the best of Argentina’s football traditions of fast, close passing. They had some excellent players. There was deep controversy surrounding their 6-0 battering of Peru in the second group stage, but they finally emerged winners, beating the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time.
I made my first visit to Argentina in 1980, my first game there being River Plate against Newell’s Old Boys of Rosario at the Monumental. River featured World Cup hero Mario Kempes, newly returned from a spell with Valencia in Spain (where he played against us in the 1980 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final), Daniel Passarella, the great Mario Cejas in goal, at the end of his playing days but still excellent, standing in for the injured Ubaldo Fillol, Norberto Alonso, Leopoldo Luque and Oscar Ortiz. The Newell’s side contained Américo Gallego. The game had everything, great goals including a ripper from Kempes and an absolute Howitzer free-kick from Daniel Passarella. River won 4-2 with the crowd going absolutely Radio Rental. Brilliant. It was love at first sight.
I’ve got eight days to ponder further. It will be a very difficult decision. I love Arsenal so, so much. Clearly the feeling isn’t mutual however. It’s entirely possible I’ll end up next season becoming a Red member and going to the odd game, watching the rest on the box. Dropping down to Silver isn’t an option. Silver membership is full and is offered to the longest-standing Red members as and when Silver members don’t renew. I’d be a very long way back in the queue, about 80,000 places or so. Great.
Yesterday’s Sunday Times and today’s Times brings us speculation that Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dingote is one of eight “super-rich” investors prepared to pay Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith over £100 million to relieve her of her 9,893 (15.9%) Arsenal shares. The cynic in me tells me that this is Blackstone, the American bank that Lady Nina has appointed to sell her shares to the highest bidder, trying to “flush out” buyers with the necessary ego and money.
To buy her shares without a clear alliance with either Alisher Usmanov or Danny Fiszman and Stan Kroenke would be the biggest of punts. Usmanov has neither positive influence nor seat on the board despite owning nearly 27% of the club. On the other hand I think Fiszman and Kroenke would sell if somebody offered them enough money. Why wouldn’t they both walk away with huge gains? Kroenke certainly has no emotional ties to the club. Fiszman appears to always do what suits his narrow financial interests, which include paying as little tax as he possibly can on the fortune he accrued in this country.
There is likely to be tax increases on capital gains in the coalition government emergency budget due on 22 June 2010. You can’t see Lady Nina wanting to pay a penny more that she absolutely can’t avoid on her shares (for which she nor her husband paid a single penny. Her husband Sir Charles Bracewell-Smith inherited them from his grandfather Sir Bracewell Smith, who left his Arsenal shares to his grandchildren in his will). All this speculation at the expense of my football club makes me ill.
Some good news came over the last few days with the confirmation that Moroccan international forward Marouane Chamakh has finally put pen to paper on an Arsenal contract. This move was one of the worst-kept secrets in football. The confirmation of his addition to the squad is most welcome though.
Keep the faith!

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