Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Debt held Gunners back - Usmanov

Alisher Usmanov claims the financing of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium cost them in the transfer market

Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov believes the club's nine-year trophy drought could have been avoided had the Gunners not gone into debt to build the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger's men beat Hull in last season's FA Cup final to claim their first piece of silverware since winning the same competition in 2005 with a penalty shoot-out victory over Manchester United.

Arsenal played just one more season at their old Highbury home after that victory before moving to the Emirates in 2006 and are now starting to see the commercial benefits of the 60,000-seater stadium, with new revenue streams coming into force which have allowed them to be more aggressive in the transfer market.

But Usmanov, whose Red & White Holdings group own just over 30 per cent of the club but are yet to be represented on the board, believes alternative financing of the new ground could have brought a fresh trophy to the internal roll of honour which runs around the stadium faster.

"I think that Arsenal's planning was based on acquiring the new stadium, a decision taken by the previous owners," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"The acquisition was financed with debt, which would be repaid through match-day revenues among other sources.

"There is another way of doing it: when shareholders buy all of the assets and contribute them to the club. As a result, these debt-free assets may generate income for the club.

"It is always up to the shareholders to choose which model to adopt.

"The board and main shareholders chose the debt option at the time, which led to Arsenal going almost 10 years without winning a domestic title or the Champions League.

"The first trophy only arrived in the 10th year.

"As a result of this choice, they were selling players and were unable to buy top players.

"These difficulties have now been overcome and the team is in a good state; the club's finances are in order and I believe that Arsene Wenger and the club's CEO (Ivan Gazidis) will manage them correctly."

Usmanov has never been afraid to voice concerns over the direction of the club, and wrote an open letter in 2012 criticising what he saw as too prudent an approach within the self-sustaining business model.

But with the Gunners spending big to acquire Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the past two summers, the Uzbek billionaire believes Wenger's team can now challenge for more silverware.

"The club is very well placed to succeed," he said.

"I think we begin a new era for Arsenal where we win trophies. That is most important for football.

"In my opinion, in line with the existing rules, the club has the correct decision-making process in place, including their selection policy, especially now, when they have the means to buy the best players."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre