By Tony Attwood
Tom Fox is the second most powerful man in the Arsenal business empire – the Chief Commercial Officer.
He was a guest at the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association AGM last night, and did a question and answer session with AISA members at the Emirates Stadium.
What I found particularly refreshing was that he was open and frank in all his answers, and that gave us some real insights into the future of Arsenal and indeed of the Premier League.
Tom talked quite a bit about salary caps, comparing how the system worked in the sports within the USA with the way it worked in football. His view was that salary caps would not be easy to work in football in the UK because players would simply queue up to work in countries where there was no salary cap. This would disadvantage the English clubs and so they would never vote for the salary cap.
But, he added, the group that met last Thursday found that an England version of financial fair play could work, and it was clear that he saw hope in that direction.
Obviously such changes don’t come in at a moment’s notice, but judging from the speech last night I would say that just as the “25″ rule was put through for the Premier League we might well see a move to bring in an English version of financial fair play which limits the losses each club can make.
There was also a second area that Tom Fox engaged with: the growth of commercial revenue. He said that he saw 95% of Arsenal’s growth coming from the increase in global revenues, and each time he spoke of this he gave the same list of regions: China, South East Asia and the USA.
I got the clear impression that the key issue on this summer’s tour was that it could be shown to happen without disrupting the pre-season training arrangements that Arsene Wenger wanted. Tom Fox said that the tour was incredibly well organised and did a huge amount for Arsenal’s good name, and hence their future income.
The new sponsorship deals (excluding the naming of the stadium) come into effect in 2014, including the shirt deal and the Nike deal, and the club is currently talking to corporations in Japan, India and South East Asia, although I also understood that both current sponsors are also keen to renew.
As for the stadium there are nine years left on the naming rights, and Tom reiterated the widely held view that you can only name a stadium once. He suggested that even if a new name sponsor was found people would still call it The Emirates, or Ashburton Grove.
So, I thought it was a very good session. It was of course only part of the evening – among other things we had Perry Groves there too – but the news about a possible English FFP was, for me, the key point. It certainly suggested it was not just a kite that was flying, but something that could very easily come into effect.
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