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1 Sep, 2007 04:10

Arsneal stakeholder aims to boost share

Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who has just paid $US 150 MLN for a 14.5% stake in Arsenal, says he's hoping to increase his share in the football club – when the conditions are right.

The buy-in sees Alisher Usmanov join an elite list of foreigners who have bought major stakes in British football clubs. Famously, Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea outright in 2003, while Aleksandr Gaydamak became the sole owner of Portsmouth last year.
The latest move has left Arsenal fans with mixed emotions. The idea of a traditionally low-spending club being backed by a Russian billionaire seems quite appealing to some fans.

“I’m ecstatic – that’s the only way I can describe it. I’m ecstatic!” an Arsenal fan exclaimed.

Meanwhile, Alisher Usmanov explained to Russia Today what it is all about.

“This purchase means you can profit from your hobby. It will allow you to earn and enjoy the game. If the market conditions and the cost of shares are acceptable we could increase our stake in Arsenal. Only if we own 25 %, will we have any influence on the future of this great club. What we do, we do for several reasons: to become co-owners of the great club, to be useful to the club, and of course to increase our assets' value,” he commented.

Russia’s 18th richest man with a reputation of being a hard man in business, Mr Usmanov calls Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger “the best manager in England”.

On his part, Arsene Wenger does not foresee great changes in the near future.

“The structure of the shares hasn't changed, you know, because it's exactly the same as before. And what I could hear is that basically that we are not changing in the near future. So far that is not a problem,Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's manager, explained.

Arsenal has more fans in London than anywhere else. But with almost a quarter of a million of Russians there, the club is bound to gain some new Russian fans.
Before the news about the deal broke, most Russians living in England were Chelsea fans. One of the reasons for that is obviously that it is backed by a Russian. Now that another Russian has emerged on England’s football scene some might consider changing strips.

Elizaveta Britikova has been a Chelsea fan since she was at primary school. Initially she chose the club by its color as she likes blue most of all.

Nevertheless, she says it’s great that red and white are now also on the pitch.

“I don’t mind honestly because it’s just a better promotion for Russia, but obviously it’s going to be more competition for Chelsea. But I’m sure they’ll do fine anyway,” said Elizaveta Britikova, a student.

At the moment one won’t see too many Russians around the Emirates Stadium but that is bound to change. After all, no matter what nationality the gunners are as for them football is indeed bigger than life.