Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Hill-Wood says "We do not want Usmanov here"

Well, I think that pretty much sums it up. Read the Guardian article here.

More on Usmanov

The murk deepens on Mr Usmanov - the Russian/Uzbeki who is trying to get his hands on Arsenal football club.

Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, has accused Mr Usmanov of various crimes (in a most un-ambassadorial way) and of having acquired his fortune in dubious circumstances. Details can be found by typing "Craig Murray censored" to bring up numerous sites that have mirrored the original blog by Craig Murray.

In response Mr Usmanov had his lawyers lean on Fasthosts, the UK company hosting the servers running Craig Murray's website, and they promptly shut down the servers. This caused collateral damage to a number of other entirely unrelated websites including that of Boris Johnson MP and would-be London major. The story has become a cause celebre in the blogosphere and is now beginning to feed into the mainstream media:

The Times

The Guardian

Channel 4 News

Daily Telegraph Online here and another here

Let's hope that this scares Usmanov away. David Dein must be wondering what on earth he has done (one would hope!).

Monday, 24 September 2007

Arsenal - Financial results

Arsenal Holdings Plc, the owners of Arsenal Football Club released their results today. A detailed press release can be found here.

Highlights are:

  • Turnover increased to £200.8m - the highest of any English football club.
  • Operating profits (before player trading and depreciation) was £51.2m - up from £13.7m.
  • Arsenal generating over £3m revenue per game at the Emirates - double that of Highbury.
  • Arsenal sitting on £73.9m in cash.
The following passage in the release addresses the recent stakes acquired by Kronke and Usmanov and I wholeheartedly support the board's view and their leadership of the club over the last few years:

"Such is the appeal of the Arsenal brand that we now have two new major shareholders.
Their arrival has, unfortunately, brought some degree of speculation about the future of the

I think it worthwhile, therefore, to once again lay out our philosophy as a Board as to the
guiding principles which underpin our management of the Club. Firstly, I would like to
emphasise our dual role both as fans and custodians of the Club, but to note that we never
allow our support of the Club as fans to put at risk the long term health of Arsenal Football
Club. We believe in being bold in the development of the Club and in taking managed risks;
this is best evidenced by the development of Emirates Stadium. At the same time we
remain committed to the principle of developing the long-term stability of the Club through
maintaining a business that pays its own way. This financial prudence has been a hallmark
of the way in which the Club has been run over many years and has sown the seeds of the
success we enjoy today. We believe it is important to continue this philosophy so that future
generations of Arsenal shareholders and supporters can continue to enjoy the success of
the Club long into the future.

The year saw the departure of vice chairman, David Dein and, once again, I would like to
express our thanks to him for his many years of service."

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Gold on the rise?

The price of gold has risen strongly this week off the back of the US Federal Reserve's half point interest rate cut to reach 27 year highs. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has produced another interesting piece in the Daily Telegraph and quotes analysts who say that there is clear blue sky above the current price right up to the all time high at US$850.

Fears of Dollar collapse

The Saudi government has refused to cut interest rates in line with the US Fed for the first time reports the Daily Telegraph. This could signal a break with the US Dollar currency peg setting the scene for a stampede out of the dollar in the Middle East. The Saudis have US$800bn in their future generation fund and the entire region has $3,500bn under management.

The US dollar currency peg is in danger of destabilising the Saudi economy through the inflationary threat of lower interest rates and a weaker currency. The Saudi central bank said it would take "appropriate measures" to halt huge capital inflows into the country.

The article notes that there is now a growing danger that global investors will start to shun the US bond markets. The latest US government data on foreign holdings released this week show a collapse in purchases of US bonds from $97bn to just $19bn in July, with outright net sales of US Treasuries. This could leave America starved of the foreign capital flows needed to cover its current account deficit - expected to reach $850bn this year, or 6.5pc of GDP.

Credit crunch hits plans for London's tallest skyscraper

The credit crunch has another potential victim in CLS, the developers of the Shard at London Bridge Station in London, which is planned to be the UK's tallest building. Construction was due to start in early September but the problems in the credit markets mean that the finances still haven't been agreed.

Story here.

Usmanov and Abramovitch

In a week when the most successful manager in Chelsea's history is shown the door by his Russian boss, against the wishes of fans and players, Arsenal find themselves facing the spectre of Russian ownership too. I think I hardly need bother spelling out the dangers that being a billionaire's plaything entails as it has plainly been spelt out this week, so let's all hope that the current Arsenal board keep their nerve and can stop Usmanov gaining a blocking vote at the club. It is very frustrating to see the efforts and sacrifices of the last three years being threatened by David Dein and his latest chum.

Dein seems to have really lost the plot in the last few months - we have won the league regularly under Wenger without spending stupid money and are currently top of the league playing great football with a young, improving and exciting squad. Apparently that's not good enough and we need to go down the Abramovitch route and bring in the star names. As Chelsea have found, that isn't necessarily the route to success or good football or large crowds. Have Shevchenko, Ballack and Cashley gone to Chelsea to play great football and to bring success to the club or to feather their nests and build up their pension plans? Who would you rather have in your side Ballack or Fabregas?

Arsenal are absolutely on the right track at the moment and the next set of financial results are supposed to be very good. The current board deserves a great deal of credit for their foresight and for being prepared to sacrifice short term success for long term success. As an Arsenal fan who can remember the relatively barren period through the seventies and eighties until George Graham arrived, I appreciate the need need to build for long term success rather than being one or two season wonders. Our new stadium and the fans filling it every game mean that there is now the strong financial base necessary to keep the club in the frame for the foreseeable future. We don't need a sugar daddy to be successful and unsettle the fundamentals of the club. Or to interfere with a manager who is very successfully managing the team.

Would you want this man running your club?

Middlesex v Leicester -Southgate CC

Following on from the late evening finish at Lord's on the evening of Monday 10th September, we had an early start for the 4 day game against Leicestershire on the Tuesday morning. Middlesex won the toss and chose to bat - fairly abysmally as it turned out. Apart from an excellent 74 from Ed Joyce and a decent 35 from the wicketkeeper Ben Scott it was pretty woeful and Middlesex were knocked over for 176 before tea on the first day! Critically, that meant no batting points and even if we won the game, Nottinghamshire would only require a single point from their game against Somerset to take the second, and last, promotion place (which they duly achieved).

I won't gripe too much as it was a lovely sunny, warm late English summer's day - the sort of day that has been in very short supply this year - and the Walker ground in Southgate was lovely. All in all, two days away from work that were well worthwhile. Here's hoping that Middlesex do better next year and that I get a chance to see more games. Roll on April!

Can you get a much more English view than this?

First Day Night match at Lord's Cricket Ground

I finally got to see some cricket this summer, parenting duties and lousy weather had pretty much scuppered all opportunities until the Derbyshire 40 over aside game on September 10th which was the first game played under floodlights at Lords.

In the afternoon sun, Derbyshire got off to a flying start with over 100 on the board in the first 20 overs for the loss of one wicket. As the light began to drop to the horizon, they lost wickets and the run rate faded and they only managed to post 196-9.

Under the floodlights, Ed Joyce played an aggressive and entertaining innings of 68 and with help from Andrew Strauss (43) Middlesex strolled home to win and set themselves up for 3 place in Division 2 and a knock out match against Northamptonshire for promotion to Division 1.

These pictures were taken on my new mobile and I hadn't read the instructions at that point, so they aren't that good! The view is from the MCCC stand next to the pavilion.