As the English Premier League grew, it attracted many rich businessmen. The trouble however, with many such businessmen was the complete control of the club. Their money bought the club that was loved and supported by many fans. Many of these businessmen like the Glazer family that bought Manchester United and Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were not cash rich, just credit rich. The result is that both Manchester United and Liverpool despite being successful clubs are in debt and struggling much to the dismay of their supporters.
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In order to avoid the fans being left powerless and voiceless, Arsenal have come up with an interesting scheme. The London club has invited fans to buy shares in the club and play a role in its governance. Although with one Arsenal share trading at £10,250, not all Arsenal supporters could afford it. This is where the Arsenal Fanshare scheme which took The Arsenal Supporters Trust five years to plan comes in handy. This scheme encourages supporters to buy an affordable portion of the share, a minimum of £100, either up front or in in £10 monthly contributions, to buy one fanshare, one hundredth of an actual share. This secures the supporter full shareholder’s rights: they get to attend the annual general meeting, ask questions of the directors and vote on policy.
Arsenal is majority-owned by four shareholders: US property and sports entrepreneur Stan Kroenke (30%); Alisher Usmanov (27%), the Uzbek-Russian mining and minerals billionaire; long-term shareholder Danny Fiszman (16%) and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who is currently looking to sell her 16% stake which her family has owned for three-generations. Arsenal is valued at around £640m and each of its 62,000 shares trades at £10,250.
Arsenal Fanshare was a brainchild of The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, a body that opposes the club being bought by one rich individual and demands that supporters be represented in decision-making. The trust hopes that many of the Arsenal’s supporters here and overseas will subscribe, massing small contributions together to form an influential stake. The supporters’ trust spokesman, Tim Payton, said, “The aim is to increase supporter ownership and influence.”
Arsenal Fanshare is fully backed by the club and according to Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, “In the club’s relationship with supporters, the important thing is that fans are valued and nurtured, not exploited. That’s not only good for the club’s soul; it is also ultimately good for the club overall, because engagement with our fans helps us to be healthier, more vibrant and successful.”
Even though the scheme allows a maximum monthly payment of a £100o which ensures that no one can build a significant holding quickly. The idea is refreshingly democratic especially in light of the recent wars between fans and the absolute owners at the debt-ridden Manchester United and Liverpool.
Article first published as Arsenal Offer Fans A Voice Through ‘Fanshares’ on Technorati.