Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger added to his recent complaint about cup replays with some further stern words aimed in the direction of London rivals Chelsea and their just announced £80m operating loss for the most recent accounting year:
They have a super sponsor. With normal mathematics, minus 80 is minus 80. It is 80 miles below water, and to survive so deep is normally very difficult... I have said many times that all clubs should be balanced with their natural resources. That means they can only spend what they earn... Is it right for any business, not only in football, to have that kind of artificial income?
You'd think a man with those sorts of concerns would have a more astute grasp of some fiscal issues closer to home. He's dismayed that his team face yet another cup replay against Blackburn, but his club stand to make more from being televised live yet again (£265k for a fifth round tie) than from actually progressing to the next round (£120k). £9k for the live radio broadcast will probably come in handy, too, for the Gunners who's last declared financial position was £262.1m in debt, an increase of £100m over the previous year.
If a replay happens to be a home game, the news is even better. A recent article by Gary Flood of Computing Business focuses on the state of the art IT facilities at the Emirates including "500 networked electronic point of sale devices" to register the outgoing tide of soft drinks, burgers and replica shirts. Arsenal's gadget guru Paul Farmer will doubtless be hoping they soon help make back the £16m the club invested in IT alone as part of the move from Highbury, not least given that his current budget is "not huge" and that a catalogue of over 1,000 devices is being looked after by the same number of staff as at the old stadium when they had 20 servers instead of 560. Martin over at Real Life News still wishes they could put together a decent website with all that kit.
Nevertheless, we're imagining the tills were ringing pretty hard last night as Arsenal's youth side pipped visitors Cardiff City 3-2 for a place in the FA Youth Cup semi-finals. 11,610 souls, a bigger crowd than watched Cardiff's first team at home to Barnsley a couple of weeks ago, took our advice and popped into the stadium for a quick look round and an entertaining game of football. Early reports suggest that the unsegregated spectators mingled happily throughout, though worryingly it sounds as though the same problem with crowd underestimation as we experienced first hand last October at the Chelsea reserve fixture reared its ugly head again, with previously closed areas of the ground apparently being opened up twenty minutes into the game to ease congestion in the stands.
Picture via psd's Flickr stream.
Arsene will doubtless be delighted that, should his side, or rather whichever of the two almost completely different sides he played in back to back undefeated cup games, overcome Blackburn in the north west they will face their fellow Lancastrians Manchester City back in the red and white land of HDTVs and cashless entry systems. We couldn't help pondering how pleased all sorts of people must be that Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United were all kept apart in Monday lunchtime's quarter-final draw leading towards the first FA Cup final to be held at the glorious new Wembley. People far more cynical than us have dared to allege that this might not be entirely accidental, though we ourselves, of course, continue to revel with Mr Wenger in the magic of the greatest domestic cup competion on the planet. And, yeah, that's fries with the hot dog, please.