Date: 3rd January 2013 at 8:21am
Written by:

The next door neighbour must have been on something of an Amazon and general online shopping bender judging by the number of parcel deliveries that she had received just before the Christmas week. Or more accurately that we’ve received on her behalf as she’d managed to be out when many of them turned up. Still it’s a neighbourly enough act and it’s never a bad idea to build a bit of credit in the neighbourhood goodwill bank.

The UPS deliveryman spied my official Arsenal merchandise carpet slippers, a gift from Secret Santa the previous Christmas, as I signed for her latest bargain.

“Nice slippers, rubbish team” he declared

Bristling a little indignantly at having my allegiances questioned my response was a little politer than my thought that he was probably another southern based ManU or newbie Chav/City glory hunter.

“By far the best team the world has ever seen” I grinned

“Not at the moment we’re not!” he confidently asserted

“You`re a gooner too then?” I enquired

“20 years …..but you`ve got to agree we`re rubbish” UPS man insisted

“The team isn`t in great shape at the moment but the club is. We will rise again. Don`t worry” I encouraged with seasonally appropriate good cheer.

“I don`t like that badge” he announced, failing to follow my attempt at good tidings as he renewed his interest in my slippers, “The cannon is facing the wrong way!”

Fearing that at any moment he would break into a chorus of We Want Our Arsenal Back while waving his black scarf I said “Now you`re just being picky” and bade him a Merry Christmas as I closed the door. I’m not sure that I heard him mutter something along the lines of still being a rubbish team as he made his way back to his van but clearly the festive mood hadn’t yet hit him.

I can’t say that the badge in its modern version has ever figured greatly in any concerns I have had about Arsenal but for some it seems to represent the commercialisation of the club and an unacceptable idea that it is being run in order to generate a profit. It is of course. So it should be as ever since top flight football decided to break away from the Football League and form the Premier League 20 years ago in order to take advantage of the liberalisation of broadcasting rights, football has become primarily a commercial enterprise.

While there might be many things to regret about that change it was only one further step in what has been an ongoing process of commercialisation ever since property tycoon Henry Norris (originally no more of an Arsenal man than Kroenke) having failed to merge us with Fulham decided he could make more money shifting the enterprise into the previously barren area of North London starved, as it was then, of top flight football. While some early 20th century supporters were unhappy at that ‘re-branding’ of the club, and others doubtless might even have shown some concern at the later addition of white sleeves to the red shirts, a greater number probably never gave it a thought and many more since have come to enjoy the changes. Rather more than any ‘love’ he had for Arsenal it was Norris’s desire to make money during a time that footballs local appeal and popularity was burgeoning that brought about positive changes in the fortunes of the works club that current supporters might have cause to appreciate. The club we see now was founded on its commercialisation.

That’s history of course but history is being made all the time and while individual former shareholders might have benefited from the rapid growth in broadcasting popularity which has magnified the market appeal and income of the modern game, for the club to maximise the benefit calls for the same desire to make money that Norris displayed many decades earlier. While some are unhappy about Kroenke’s interest in Arsenal, which is clearly about the perfectly laudable ambition to profit from his enterprise (though with greater convention and more scruples than Norris) I think that’s more beneficial to the long term health of the club than either patriarchal philanthropy in keeping the working classes entertained or as a plaything in a billionaire’s poker game. As long as the expertise that Kroenke brings is rooted in building businesses that can make money, which in turn is dependent on sporting success, then hopefully my nit picking pre-christmas delivery man might find some greater cheer in the not too distant future.