What is sporting success?

Celebrating its 125th year anniversary, Arsenal FC, are the first British Club to qualify for the (European) Champions League knock out stages this year. They have consistently qualified for both this ‘highest level’ league and its subsequent knockout stages every year since their manager Arsene Wenger joined them some 15 years ago. Despite this, some fans want to sack the manager because he has not won any trophies for 6 years (FA Cup 2005) having won the ‘double double’ (1998 and 2002), the Premiereship 2004 (without losing a match) and more.Time since arsenal won Some fans even count the seconds.

Arsenal compete at the highest level every year and fans get to see the best teams in Europe competing in their new HQ every year.

Despite competing clubs’ billionaire bosses throwing money into their toys (English clubs), Arsenal refuse to buy their way to success (cost control), have the lowest wages to revenue ratio in the premiership, nurture youthful employees (players), developed a stunning new HQ (stadium) and last year enjoyed the highest revenues in UK (albeit boosted by property sales). Arsenal have a stable platform for long term survival perhaps another 125 years if they don’t get sucked into ‘buying short term success’.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Arsenal 6:0 Sheffield United, Carling Cup, Third Round, Emirates Stadium, London, 23/9/2008. Credit : Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal Football Club.

And the club has some soul. The single over-riding personality trait that the French footballing philosopher, Arsene Wenger, looks for in a new player is humility (assuming the player has the basic footballing skills). One of its young talents has another personality trait, compassion, which caused a social media stir this week….

Football star caught betting on his team’s results – on twitter Arsenal’s teenage sensation, Jack Wilshere, made a bet with North London rival Tottenham fans (who follow him on twitter) by betting £3,000 that Arsenal will end up higher than Spurs in the league table. If not he’ll pay £3k to Jack Marshall Fund for children.Wilshere beating player If Arsenal do finish higher than Spurs he’s asking all his Spurs followers on Twitter to pay a £1 towards the fund. Either way, charity is the winner. Now there’s innovative use of twitter from a conscientious, & highly talented, teenage footballer.

Another engaging use of social media is the club’s invitation to its fans to create banners online for display in the stadium. They move with the times. Arsenal Build a Banner on facebook

Finally, Wenger & co displayed great sportsmanship in 1999 when two of their new overseas players were unaware of the great sportsmanship tradition – after kicking a ball out when a player is seriously injured, the ball is thrown back into play and given back to the opposition. The new Arsenal players unwittingly played the ball and scored a goal to win the game. Arsene Wenger the Arsenal Manager. Arsenal 1:2 Hull City. Barclays Premier League. Emirates Stadium, 27/9/08. Credit : Arsenal Football Club / Stuart MacFarlane.Wenger & co knew this was wrong and insisted, after beating Sheffield United, and despite the FA Rules, on a replay. Full story in the eBook and book.

As a rival London club (with 129 years history) – a QPR fan, I have to applaud Arsenal’s approach, their football and their manager, Arsene Wenger.

In an economic era when survival is success, congratulations to the Arsenal, on not just surviving, but continually playing some great football on the highest altars and having some soul.  Here’s wishing them the best for the next 125 years.

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17 Responses to What is sporting success?

  1. Asit Ganguli December 1, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    I think Arsene Wenger is a genius to be running the club like he is. So what if he’s not winning trophies, its not like he’s languishing in mid-table. He’s up there, beating the best in the league, qualifying for the knock-out stages in Europe’s biggest competition and keeping the books clean.

    That is unbelievable! If I were a fan of the club, I would let him get away with murder.

  2. PAUL December 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Sir Alex Ferguson agrees – today’s fans have no patience
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/16001526.stm

  3. PAUL December 5, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    And now Abu Dhabi’s ‘The National’ sports journalist, Will Batchelor agrees also by adding a new layer to the discussion when he refers to fans by saying ‘I preferred being treated like cattle. At least it was honest’. I, for one, agree http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/sport-comment/a-high-margin-of-error

  4. John McGrann December 19, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    Well the Transfer League Table 2003 – 2011 certainly bears out Arsene’s financial control and his ability to be be a ‘big player’ without having to buy success!
    http://www.transferleague.co.uk/league-tables/2003-2011.html
    The sign of a truly top manager!
    John

  5. Michael Phillips February 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    It’s a difficult one. It depends on wat you look on as success. In one way he’s got them in the Champions League every year, he’s got them financially sound & he brings through youth. But on the other hand if you wanna be winning trophies then you’ve got to spend money and buy the best players.

    • prsmith February 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      Michael, I think Wenger has said he will buy if he doesn’t qualify for Europe.
      Cian – yes perhaps he should buy but the altenative is fantastic – to look to nurture young talen coming through the Arsenal Academy. You have to applaud this. I suppose there’s a balance he has yet to find between buying players and nurturing young talent.

  6. Cian Smith February 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Success is trophies and promotion. Arsenal can’t get promoted so they’ve got to win trophies. Champions League qualification is expected if you are a top 4 team. Wenger should stop being so thight
    ‘Rangers till I die.’

  7. prsmith February 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    “Arsenal’s wonderful Emirates Stadium could be seen as a trophy in itself.” Sky TV commentator during Arsenal’s incredible turn around (from 2-0 down to Tottenham Hotspurs to winning 5-2). They haven’t won a trophy for 6 years but they did deliver this beautiful stadium.

  8. John Stasi March 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    Is winning a trophy really what it’s all about?

    Most clubs in fact probably 90% of English clubs don’t win anything, apart from survival of promotion, is winning promotion to the league above really an achievement if you were relegated the year before because you could not compete and lost 80% of your games?

    As a lifelong Arsenal fan i’ve seen a lot at both stadiums. One thing we have not lost in that time is our soul, and without soul, most great brands lose thier way, forget thier roots and try to be something they are not.

    The only thing we are not at the moment are winners of trophies but the rest remains.

    I remember reading the Sunday Times on the morning before we beat spurs and it was a double page spread about how the tables have turned, and the white part of North London now have the upper hand – really?! Are journalists just looking for a story or do they have facts to back it up?!

    What happened since then is that the truth prevailed, as it always does, and fingers crossed (as things can still change but i doubt it), spurs fans will be out of pocket of £1 very soon to Jack’s charity.

    Look ahead to 30 years.

    Who will be the best clubs in the world? I bet all fans Arsenal will still be competing if it keeps it’s soul.

  9. prsmith March 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Agree John: ‘Most clubs in fact probably 90% of English clubs don’t win anything, apart from survival of promotion’ – if you add a time frame of 6 years – it’d probably an even smaller percentage of clubs that win anything. Delighted to see some supporters look beyond the instant gratification that so many crave yet so few achieve.

  10. Ze March 27, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    It is a shame that we live in a world whereby instant gratification and keeping up with the joneses is the level of expectation seen as a bench mark of success. As an Arsenal fan, Arsene Wenger deserves a medal merely on his level of consistency. His philosophical approach has been a cornerstone as to how they have maintained where they are. It should be admired and celebrated by all.

    • prsmith March 27, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      I’m with you Ze. He deserves a medal despite some Arsenal fans turning on him. They will regret losing him one day. meanwhile Man U fans are already turning on Moyes & throwing abuse at Fergie in the stands. This short-termism /instant gratification is horrible to see.

  11. Neil September 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    Wenger managed to keep the club in the lucrative champions league stages consistently. He did more with less compared to the big spending rivals in the premier league. The youth first approach needs to be supplemented with big money buys to nuture talent. Arsenal finally broke their duck last year but the catalyst actually proved to be Aaron Ramsey a product of the youth system and not the big money signing of Mesut Özil. There is a balance to be struck on and off the pitch.

    • prsmith September 12, 2014 at 8:05 am #

      I agree Neil. Would be interesting to see how many Premiereship clubs actually have the fruits of their academies delivering players that play regularly for the 1st team.

  12. pfoley September 24, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Wenger has done remarkably well to finish in the top four of the Prem League for so many years while controlling costs at the same time. The cash injection the club receives by consistently qualifying for the CL has allowed them to keep up with the League’s big spenders. Ironically, if Arsenal weren’t distracted by CL football, they would probably have won a lot more Prem titles :-(

    • Paul Smith September 24, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

      Losing last night’s League Cup was probably a good thing then?

  13. Pfoley September 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Yes, I think so. Fewer games means fewer injuries and unfortunately it is only Chelsea and man city who can boast of having two full A teams in their squads . Liverpool heroics in the 2013/2014 season are a good example of how far you can push the bug two when not being distracted by CL football or domestic cup games.

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