The Secret History of Arsenal Football Club

Wednesday 18th November 2009 at 6pm
Medawar Lankaster Lecture Theatre (University College London)
Malet Place, (off Torrington Place)
London WC1
(For directions please see the pdf map).

Given by:
Alex Fynn
Arsenal football club has been one of the great success stories of English football since the establishment of the Premier League in 1992. According to the Deloitte 2008/2009 Football Money League (page 12) at the end of the 2007/2008 season it was the 6th richest club in Europe, had successfully managed the transition to possibly the most impressive club stadium in European football at the Emirates whilst still managing to stay close to its traditional home in the London borough of Islington, all whilst remaining profitable at the pre-tax level, but still consistently producing exciting and competitive teams capable of challenging for the top sporting honours in English and European football. This constellation of positive benefits is an extraordinary achievement for a European football club, where chronic loss-making and financial instability are the norm.

In this presentation, drawing on his experience of advising Arsenal on media and marketing, and from first hand interviews with most of the leading figures at Arsenal Football Club – including Arsène Wenger, David Dein and Danny Fiszman – interviews conducted as part of the research for his highly acclaimed book Arsènal: The Making of a Modern Superclub (co-authored with Kevin Whitcher), the paperback edition of which was published in September, Alex Fynn will present an assessment of the current health of Arsenal Football Club as its totemic manager, Arsène Wenger, turns 60 years of age.

He will first examine the critical role of the Arsenal team manager in not only team affairs – building one of the most exciting young attacking teams in European football through a strong emphasis on youth talent development with a globalised reach – but also through his involvement as a key influencer on the evolution of wider business strategy at the club. Alex will then assess the future prospects for Arsenal going forward. Historically the club has been said to have benefited from a highly stable and patient shareholder base, with two major shareholders, David Dein and Danny Fiszman, acting in coalition and widely credited with having exercised a very positive stewardship of the football club. However, the decision by former club vice-chairman David Dein to sell his shareholding to Uzbek investor Alisher Usamov’s Red & White Holdings, and the arrival on the share register of American sports entrepreneur Stanley Kroenke as a significant minority investor, has fractured that stability. Alex addresses the critical question as to whether the current volatility on the share register simply represents a short-term period of transition to a new era of stability under a single investor or a  new dominant coalition of minority investors; or whether in fact the club is entering a prolonged  period of uncertainty in terms of its strategic direction where it may prove impossible to reconcile the contrasting visions for the club of major minority shareholders, with potentially very negative consequences for the club’s financial performance and competitiveness on the field of play.


  • Fynn, A. & Whitcher, K. (2009). Arsènal: The Making of a Modern Superclub. London: Vision Sports Publishing. 2nd edition.
  • Deloitte (2009). Football Money League. Manchester: Deloitte.


Alex Fynn is a well-known consultant to the football industry who has also written extensively on the subject of the football business. His clients have included Arsenal, Celtic, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur football teams, as well as the Football League and the Football Association. Through his work he has been influential in the formation of both the Premier League and the European Champions League. Previously Alex was a director of the well-known advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, latterly as vice-chairman. Throughout his career Alex has acted as an advisor on the negotiation of the sale of TV broadcasting rights for clients such as the Football League and the FA, the latter which led to the award of the first BSkyB television contract. He has advised a number of clubs and federations on media and marketing; including the sale of broadcasting rights by the Polish FA, Galatasaray of Turkey and most recently by Celtic, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham and West Ham.

For further details on this Seminar Series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

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