Arsenal shareholders express 'deep reservations' over direction of club following Robin van Persie decision

 

Arsenal's second-largest shareholders have written an open letter to the board expressing "deep reservations" over the direction of the club in the wake of captain Robin van Persie deciding against extending his contract.

Red & White Securities Limited, fronted by Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri, hold around 30% of shares in the Gunners' parent company, which was the subject of a takeover in 2011 by American tycoon Stan Kroenke.

In the letter, concerns are raised over "losing our true marquee player" and RWS also ask the board in the letter: "Where are the safeguards to ensure that this doesn't happen again and again?"

Red & White, who do not have a representative on the board, feel Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has given the impression there is a "bitter stand-off" between themselves and the hierarchy.

The letter continued: "In our view it is clear you are trying to distract attention from the more fundamental issues facing the club.

"These are the financial model, the lack of investment and club's future strategic direction.

"At the heart of this is the policy of so-called self-financing. The previous decision by the board to fund the building of the Emirates Stadium with long-term debt was, we believe, certainly not about self-financing."

Red & White, who point out they have "invested circa £200 million of cash", set out their "vision" for Arsenal.

The letter added: "It is simple. A debt free club, with a big enough war chest to buy top talent players who can hit the ground running and who can complement the club's long tradition of developing young players and homegrown talent.

"Together they can help the club win the most prestigious trophies - because it is the trophies which are the crowning achievement for everybody at the club."

Red & White closed their letter by wishing Kroenke "every success", although stressing they have "deep reservations about the viability of the policies being pursued by his management team and sanctioned by the board".

The letter concluded: "Finally and reflecting our long-term commitment to the club, we will continue to purchase more shares in the club from anyone who wants to sell them to us.

"Also in order to formalise our long-term involvement with the club and put an end to any speculation over our position, we, as the co-owners of Red & White, will proudly retain our holding in the club as a long-term investment for ourselves and our family members to benefit for generations to come.

"We want the absolute best for the club and will do what is necessary to ensure the success of the club that we all love."

Arsenal will take time reviewing statements in the open letter before deciding whether to make any official response.

However, Press Association Sport understands the Gunners board and management team are all very committed to the current direction, with a firm belief that the self-funding model will bring long-term success, both on and off the pitch.

Today's claims by RWS follow on from the announcement by Van Persie, in a carefully worded statement on his official website, that he would not be extending his current deal, which runs out next summer.

The 28-year-old netted 37 goals in all competitions as Arsenal eventually secured third place, and manager Arsene Wenger recently declared the club must retain their talisman "at all costs".

However, despite meeting with Wenger and chief executive Gazidis at the end of last season and the signings of Germany striker Lukas Podolski as well as France forward Olivier Giroud, Van Persie remains unconvinced he can fulfil his ambitions with the club he joined as a raw talent from Feyenoord in May 2004.

Van Persie will turn 29 in August, and the next contract he agrees could well be his last at the highest level.

Serie A winners Juventus, Paris St Germain and Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City are said to be ready to test Arsenal's resolve with a £20million-plus bid.

However, the Gunners - who last summer saw both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri leave - could also look to hold Van Persie to the terms of his deal.

PA

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