Arsenal AGM: It may feel like a fresh start but Sir Chips Keswick will make sure Arsenal doesn’t change

This year’s AGM was less fractious but also more stage-managed, writes Jack Pitt-Brooke

Those Arsenal fans handing out leaflets outside the annual general meeting on Thursday morning, imploring the club to be more like Bayern Munich, might have been slightly disappointed. While they were demanding a “fresh approach and fresh ideas” in the boardroom, the reality inside the Highbury Suite was quite different.

There has been a change at the top of the club, a change in panel from last year’s AGM; the departure of Peter Hill-Wood as chairman and his replacement with Sir Chips Keswick. And while Sir Chips is a lifelong Arsenal fan, who has been on the board since 2005, this might not have been precisely the change that the fans want to see.

Arsène Wenger, thanking Hill-Wood for his three decades of service, said: “He was a symbol of what Arsenal was about – he respected traditional values and he was forward-thinking.” This is typical of Wenger and of Arsenal too, and their chairman, new to his role but not exactly a modern figure.

Summing up Arsenal’s desire to be successful this year, Sir Chips said they were keen to win “leagues, pennants and cups”. Reflecting on the recent success of Arsenal Ladies in the Women’s Champions League, he spoke of their win in “Kazakh-something”. When discussing the Qatar World Cup, he joked that he “probably won’t even be alive”, so it was not high on his list of priorities.

At least Sir Chips is authentically Arsenal. Wenger must appreciate that too, and insisted in his short speech that the club’s global popularity – which is hugely important to them – owed to how true to itself it remained, in obvious contrast to some of its Premier League rivals.

The manager said: “Our club is well respected all over the world because we have values, because we are not artificial, because we are based on tradition, because we are forward-thinking and we give a chance to young people who deserve it.”

Wenger, as ever, was well-received by the shareholders and was confident enough to tell them he hoped he could “organise a very positive meeting” in May. The mood was the polar opposite of last year’s AGM. That took place the morning after Arsenal had lost 2-0 at home to Schalke in the Champions League. They were ninth in the Premier League, with 12 points from their first eight games. They were still stinging from the loss of Robin van Persie and the questioning from the floor was raucous and accusatory.

This time there were only a very few hands opposing the re-election of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to the board, and the criticisms of the club were for the most part very specific – ticket prices, the purchase of a data management company, even the lack of protection from the rain in parts of the ground – rather than about overall direction. On the issue of Kroenke meeting the fans, and the possibility of a dividend, there was not much movement.

It felt at times like a calmer place, a more agreeable family now in the Mesut Özil era. Maybe, though, that was just a function of the way the meeting was organised, with almost all questions pre-submitted and displayed on screens, and the board offering pre-prepared answers. Just a few came from the floor afterwards.

The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust certainly thought so. “It was a staged meeting reducing the opportunity for shareholders and supporters to interact with the board,” said AST spokesman Tim Payton afterwards. “Most questions were not answered. It has never been controlled like that before. It reduced the dialogue and engagement for supporters.”

Kroenke did speak, but not for long and not revealing much. He might not have made himself much more popular with the supporters but as Wenger, who knows what football fans base their opinions on, said: “Our attitude, our commitment on the pitch has to bring everybody on board. I personally am convinced we have the team who has the attitude and the desire to do that.

“We are top of the table, in a very strong position, but if you look at the schedule, by the end of November you will have a much clearer situation.” For now, judgements on the future are still on hold.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power