In Depth

Why everyone’s talking about the Arsenal redundancies

FA Cup winners’s plan to axe 55 jobs angers players, fans and former stars

Arsenal may have finished their season on a high with a superb 2-1 victory over Chelsea in last weekend’s FA Cup final, but any optimism for the team’s performances on the pitch has been quickly overshadowed by the club’s economic situation.  

The Premier League side has this week announced that 55 staff redundancies are being proposed following a loss of revenues due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Athletic reports that this amounts to around 10% of the club’s non-playing workforce.

News of the redundancies has angered current players, fans, former stars and pundits alike.

What happened?

A statement issued on Wednesday by head of football Raúl Sanllehi and managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “In line with other football clubs and many other businesses operating in the sport, leisure and entertainment arena, we have been impacted directly by Covid-19.

“Our main sources of income have all reduced significantly. Revenue from broadcasters, matchday and commercial activities have all been hit severely and these impacts will continue into at least the forthcoming 2020/21 season.  

“Our aim has been to protect the jobs and base salaries of our people for as long as we possibly can. Unfortunately, we have now come to the point where we are proposing 55 redundancies. 

“We do not make these proposals lightly and have looked at every aspect of the club and our expenditure before reaching this point. We are now entering the required 30-day consultation period on these proposals. We know this is upsetting and difficult for our dedicated staff and our focus is on managing this as sensitively as possible.”

Arsenal’s scouting department is the main area of the club that will be impacted by the restructuring. The Guardian reports that head of recruitment Francis Cagigao - who discovered stars such as Cesc Fàbregas and Héctor Bellerín - is the highest-profile name to be released. 

The Daily Mail adds that UK head of scouting Pete Clark and recruitment specialist Brian McDermott are also set to lose their jobs. 

Players are furious 

The club’s decision has left many Arsenal players feeling “frustrated” and “disappointed”, says The Athletic, and certain stars intend to speak to managers to discuss the situation.  

In April the majority of the first-team squad agreed to a voluntary 12.5% pay cut to help the club through the financial turbulence caused by Covid-19. And it was done so on the understanding that it would preserve jobs for other staff. 

According to the Daily Mail, Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka is reportedly leading the players’ revolt against the cuts.

‘Shameful decision’ 

Wednesday’s announcement also cited that a “key priority” will be the continued investment in the team - and this has left a sour taste for many fans.  

There’s talk that captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is close to signing a new three-year deal while Brazilian winger Willian could also be close to completing a free transfer from Chelsea.  

With club owner Stan Kroenke worth an estimated £6.32bn and high-earning players such as Mesut Ozil on around £350,000-a-week, the redundancies have sparked anger among the fanbase, including several high-profile supporters.   

Gunners legend Ian Wright, who scored 149 goals for the club, reacted on Twitter to the news of the redundancies. Quoting his late friend and former team-mate David Rocastle, Wright tweeted: “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent!!!” 

TV presenter Piers Morgan also launched a stinging attack on the club’s board, the Daily Mirror says, calling the decision shameful. 

Morgan tweeted: “Arsenal firing 55 staff when we’re owned by a multi-billionaire, have just made £££ by winning the FA Cup & qualifying for Europe, & pay Mesut Ozil £350,000-a-week to sit on his a***, is morally indefensible & not what I expect from a club with our heritage. Shameful decision.”

What happens next?

The FA Cup victory brought the feel-good factor back to the club’s fanbase and saw Mikel Arteta win his first trophy since replacing Unai Emery as head coach in December.

However, FourFourTwo’s Seb Stafford-Bloor says the redundancies announcement undermines the club’s positive new identity under Arteta.

He wrote: “It has created a duelling perception of Arsenal. On the one hand, they are in the embryonic stages of an intriguing new epoch, full of ideas and differences. On the other, they are also more the same than ever before, with their unfeeling corporatism more pronounced than at any other point during Stan Kroenke’s ownership.”

The decision to make 55 people redundant also doesn’t sit well with ArseBlog’s Andrew Mangan, who cites the potential free transfer of Willian and lucrative contract offer for star striker Aubameyang.

Mangan says: “As fans we want the best for our club and for our team, but it’s hard to square the circle of 55 job losses with the idea that we’re about to drop a big signing on fee for a soon to be 32 year old player from Chelsea, as well as paying him north of £6m a year for three years. 

“I know it’s back of a match-book stuff, but if the average salary of those 55 people was £50,000 per year, the saving to KSE [Kroenke Sports & Entertainment] over the year is £2.75m. 

“We want to give Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a new contract of £300,000 a week, we can find the money to pay him £15.6m a year but 55 hard working people have to lose their jobs in a pandemic in order to do so? Does that sit right with everyone? It doesn’t with me.” 

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