Arsenal haul leaves $142M for roster

Associated
Press- Arsenal’s move to a bigger stadium has paid off, with turnover
increasing by almost 50 percent to a club record $407 million and giving
manager Arsene Wenger a healthy transfer budget.

Arsenal
Holdings PLC said Monday its record results, for the year ending May 31, came
as a result of the move to the 60,400-capacity Emirates Stadium in July 2006.

The Gunners
had played at the 38,500-seat Highbury Stadium for the previous 91 years.

Arsenal
chairman Peter Hill-Wood said the club earned $6.2 million from each match day
last season — for a total of $183.5 million.

That’s
more than double the $89.3 million produced by match-day revenue at Highbury.

Group
operating profits increased by 274 percent to $104 million, before player
trading and depreciation.

However,
the club’s net profit dropped by nearly 64 percent to $5.7 million — from
$14.8. million a year ago — because it had to refinance long-term debt
connected to building the new stadium.

Arsenal
sold striker Thierry Henry to FC Barcelona in the offseason and bought striker
Eduardo da Silva, defender Bacary Sagna, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and midfielder
Lassana Diarra.

And with
the positive financial figures, Wenger, who normally buys players prudently,
now has access to a significant transfer fund.

“Well
I think we’ve got plenty of financial firepower to make transfers that Arsene
Wenger wishes to make,” Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman said.
“We had over [$142 million] in cash at the end of year and if Arsene
Wenger wants to spend that money we will make it available.”

The
results were released amid speculation of a takeover of Arsenal by Russian
billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who increased his stake in Arsenal to 21 percent
last Tuesday, becoming the club’s second largest shareholder.

American
businessman Stan Kroenke also invested in the club over the past year and owns
11.26 percent.

“The
board holds 45.5 percent and we believe there are other shareholders out there
that will support the board so we are very confident that we would actually win
control and keep control of the club,” Edelman said.

Edelman
said Arsenal had a “very good relationship” with Kroenke, through a
marketing partnership with the Kroenke Sports Entertainment group and Major
League Soccer club Colorado Rapids.

Arsenal
officials have not met with Usmanov.

“As
far as Usmanov is concerned, we have always stated our belief as a responsible
corporate body, we meet anybody who requests a meeting, and that is still our
policy,” Edelman said.

Usmanov’s
Red and White Holdings Ltd. has David Dein as its chairman. Dein was a vice
chairman at Arsenal before he was ousted from the board in April for his
support of foreign investment.

Edelman
said Arsenal did not want to rely on a single person putting money into the
club, saying its shareholders were all fans.

“That
could be contrasted with what could be called financial owners, who come to
purchase clubs to make money out of them and they don’t have the affinity to be
a rabid fan — to live, breathe and eat Arsenal Football Club,” Edelman
said.

Emirates
Stadium cost $871 million in total to build. Arsenal borrowed $527 million to
help build the stadium, and Hill-Wood said the debt had been refinanced to
reduce yearly payments.

The club
has also sold 91 percent of the housing development built at the old Highbury
Stadium, with revenue of around $203 million from that development available from
2009.

However,
Hill-Wood warned shareholders not to expect growing profits and ever-increasing
cash balances in future years.

“This
is because the board continues to believe that the best long term policy for
the club is to reinvest profits and cash back into the development of the
team,” he said.