As the final whistle rang around a near empty Wembley Stadium, a strong feeling of giddiness filled the stomach of all emotionally invested in the club. In a season where Granit Xhaka had a very public spat with the fans, the Arsenal Board referred to fan sentiment as “noise” and the team went through 2 coaches before the turn of the year, it’s a remarkable achievement to come out of the season with any semblance of positivity.
This moment was epitomised as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failed in his attempt to lift the cup, and the entire squad seemed to have had a good laugh about it. It seemed like being at Arsenal was fun again.
But Wednesdays announcement came as a punch in the gut to most fans. Arsenal announced they were making 55 jobs redundant, in an effort to deal with the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Club’s finances.
In the eyes of most sport fans, the idealistic stature of a club is not one of a business corporation, but that of a Institution of the community it represents. Arsenal as a club have been better than most at upholding these values doing exemplary work through The Arsenal Foundation. Arsenal players too have also embraced this responsibility with the likes of Hector Bellerin being one of the biggest voices in the sport, talking openly about Mental Health and Climate Change.
So when the news broke that Arsenal couldn’t protect the people, who uphold these principles of the club on a daily basis, it was an extremely difficult decision to digest. Especially considering the fact that till date, Arsenal remain the only Premier League club to take a permanent 12.5% pay cut, where the players were guaranteed that this would help in protecting the employees of the club.
The final decision to take a pay cut came after Mikel Arteta himself intervened and had to convince a very disjointed squad at the time, to trust the hierarchy. It is reasonable to think that Arteta and all the players must feel puzzled, after these layoffs came anyway, despite the players taking a wage cut
Stan Kroenke, the owner of Arsenal is worth 8.1 Billion euros, and has seen his value grow by over 280 million euros since march. His refusal to interject in this situation and put some money into the club to protect his employees in both instances, speaks volume about his disinterest in club operations. None of his other sporting endeavours, which include the LA Rams and the Denver Nuggets haven’t seen any scaling back in operations such as the ones that took place at Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta has been the clubs’ guiding light and moral strong pole throughout this trying period. In his press conference after Arsenal’s win over Wolverhampton in July, asked of his squad to suffer together, further stating this mantra when fully embraced by all parts of the club would be a catalyst to take Arsenal back to the top.
This has been his philosophy since day one at arsenal, urging togetherness not only among the players but the entire club, and during Saturdays celebrations at Wembley it finally seemed like a team that had lost so often, finally learned to win together.
But Wednesdays statement made it very clear, that the ownership group didn’t feel they are a part of Arsenal. They see it only as a way to make profits. They weren’t ready to endure with the club and make the difficult decision to invest and instead took the easy way out, leaving 55 people out to dry in some of the most trying economic circumstances of this century.
As reported earlier in the week by David Ornstein of the Athletic, the players were extremely disappointed and frustrated and intended to speak with the executives about this decision. The report also stated that there is fear among the arsenal hierarchy that new signing and players agreeing future contract renewals may consequently appear responsible for the redundancies, since the club cited “investment in the team” as one of the primary factors in the statement.
Undoubtedly Arsenal won’t be the only club to have such scale backs, but retrospectively perhaps they would’ve been part of the few that could have avoided it.