Arsenal class...at last
On Saturday Ivan Gazidis held his latest Fans Forum meeting with fan representatives at the stadium. There was the usual guff where he skirts around various issues, but there were one or two titbits of information that are more than worth sharing. None of these things are yet being reported anywhere else so I'm getting them in as an exclusive right here.
The first thing to talk about is the shirt/stadium sponsorship deal with Emirates. On the subject of the stadium deal there was a fairly tacit admission that the naming rights extension has been given on the cheap. This is, apparently, because there is not a culture of such deals in Europe. According to Gazidis stadium rights are highly popular in America, but there is less scope over here. Call me stupid, but I dont really see that as being true. Has Gazidis ever heard of the Allianz Arena? Or the Signal Iduna Park? Or the Veltins Arena? The fact is that his team has sold the naming rights for next to nothing and that is a failure on their part.
With regards to the shirt sponsorship Mr Gazidis reported that Arsenal's deal is the best in World football. He bases this statement on the grounds that Manchester United are "in a league of their own". I am honestly not making this up. I have to say it's reassuring to have a man in charge that is able to get us to the very best commercial sponsorship deals in World football, apart from the fact that such a statement is completely inaccurate. Why say you have the best deal in the World when you then have to admit that you haven't? Embarrassing.
Questions were asked over Tom Fox and his nonsense comments last week about how the fans derive pride from Arsenal's commercial work. Gazidis assured those present that the comments were not reported in the way intended. He also claimed that they came in a private conversation that was not meant for the newspapers. Quite how a representative of Arsenal can think he's having a private conversation with journalists I don't know. At the very best it's incredibly naive. However, if it was intended as private, and this had been made clear to the journalists, then those people should be banned from Arsenal events, should they not?
The good news from the meeting comes in two parts, and both of them involve what the players will be wearing next season. Firstly there will be a return to yellow shirts. The Club "reserves the right" to change the colours again in the future, but it seems the purple and black monstrosity (and the low sales of it) has seen them realise what a mistake they've been making. Last week Arsenal Brasil released a sketch of what is likely to be the new shirt and it looks like their source has been spot on yet again. I think we all know it should be red and white at home, yellow and blue away. We keep getting messed about over that, but next season will be much better.
The last thing that I am going to report is something I find very important. I remember going to Derby County in November 1997 and being shocked at seeing the Arsenal players get off the coach wearing tracksuits. This was the first time I had ever seen Arsenal not wearing the club blazer and tie. Since then the players have looked more and more scruffy as they attend matches. The likes of Alex Song really became an embarrassment to Arsenal in the way they dressed with stupid hats and out-sized headphones etc. Meanwhile Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea went the other way and turned up looking like they meant business in club suits. It seems that Thomas Vermaelen is also not a fan of wearing polyester before a game. The Club Captain has requested that Arsenal get the players back in to Arsenal branded suits. At last we will get a bit of class from next season. Bob Wilson often speaks of the pride he felt in turning up at grounds around the country "wearing that big gun on your chest". It really is about time. As ever with Arsenal, though, there is a down side to this story. Apparently the Club can not get the suits until next season as the cost will be up to £250,000 and there isn't time to source the suits before then. Only Arsenal and their incompetent commercial team could fail to see that the suits should be costing them nothing. There they are in London, with no shortage of fashion houses just looking for the next advertisement of their brand. Surely any business the size of Arsenal should be going to Armani or Hugo Boss or whoever and putting together a deal to be the "official suit supplier to Arsenal FC"? You certainly don't have to pay for such things in this day and age. Perhaps that's why Manchester United are in a league of their own - they have a commercial team that knows how to do business properly.