Arsenal fans were weary of new shareholder Alisher Usmanov’s plans for the club; they will be even more uncertain now after recent events. To start off, Usmanov is a Russian businessman whose fortune came from lumber, mining and investment. He has an estimated value of $5.5 billion, making him the 18th richest person in Russia. A few months ago, common football fans had not heard of the man; now he is one of the biggest talking points in world football today.
Usmanov currently holds 21% of all the shares in Arsenal Football Club, meaning he is the second largest shareholder after Danny Fiszman (who has 24%). Usmanov set up a company to hold the shares, ironically named Red & White Holdings with ex-Arsenal vice chairman David Dein appointed head of the company. Arsenal fans around the world are not to happy with this move due to various past untoward activities, and with the recent departure of Jose Mourinho from Chelsea due to Roman Abramovich’s constant meddling, a potential takeover by Usmanov does not look good if you are an Arsenal fan.
Many accusations have been made against Usmanov; former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray first accused the Russian of fraud, corruption and theft of state amongst other things on September 2nd. Since then, these allegations have been circulated on a variety of websites, with Arsenal forums and chat sites debating it the most. All aspects of people related to football are going to get discussed- whether you’re talking about what Rio Ferdinand eats for lunch or why Rafa Benitez has those silly sideburns, so anyone wanting to be involved in the sport should not be too worried by the average fan’s views. Usmanov however immediately instructed his legal advisors to contact blogs and internet forums; many were threatened with legal action in order to persuade them to remove their posts.
At one point in Arsenal’s time Dein was the driving force behind a rise to one of the best teams in the world; now he seems content to lead what seems like a dictatorship. I can see no other reason for this than his own ego- anyone with half a brain cell would realize that Arsenal do not need a takeover at the moment, especially with the recently released financial reports. David Dein has a bit more than half a brain cell in his head, so him slowly pushing for a takeover will not just push the current board away from him, but also alienate the fans.
All in all this is shameful business; from the first attempt to secure the takeover (Dein secretly contacted members of the Arsenal board) to this most recent act of threatening football fans if they shared their views with the world. Dein is slowly becoming a hate figure for Arsenal fans; he would do well to halt his efforts before his entire legacy is derided. As for Usmanov, fraud, corruption and theft of state allegations aside, the actions of his representatives have lost him whatever benefit of the doubt he might have received from the press or fans.
There’s no way Arsenal fans will view him as a positive influence on the club, and it’s cause for concern for the Arsenal as long as Red & White Holdings own 21% of Arsenal.