AISA is sad to hear that Vinai Venkatesham will be leaving is role as Arsenal CEO in the summer of 2024. In our experience Vinai has had a very positive influence on Arsenal FC, and has been instrumental in guiding the club through some very difficult times. When Vinai succeeded Ivan Gazidis (who had promised much) in 2018, the club was struggling to come to terms with life after Arsene Wenger and very much in need of clear direction. One of Vinai’s biggest achievements has been to see us through this period and help to restore some level of trust between the club and its fanbase. This has not been without its pitfalls and the spectacular error of the European Super League (ESL) and the resulting protests outside (and inside) the Emirates represents a nadir in fan/club relations in modern times. But Vinai took this on and was a driving force in establishing the Arsenal Advisory Board (AAB) that has continued to meet regularly, ensuring communications between fans groups (like AISA) and the senior management of the club.
Vinai must also take credit for sticking with a new young manager when it would have been easy to bow to the pressure building in the wake of some poor results at the start of the 21/22 season. But Vinai kept faith in Arteta and this helped lay the foundations for the positive developments we all enjoyed last season. Hopefully Vinai, whose passion for this club is clear when you speak to him, will get to see his team lift a trophy or three this season before he leaves us. Vinai has also been a huge supporter of the women’s game, not just as CEO at Arsenal but also for his wider work in helping build on the success of the Lionesses in making women’s football in England (and across the world) mainstream. Hopefully he will continue to do this in some way or another once he leaves Arsenal.
Being CEO of a club like ours is a massive responsibility and one I know Vinai takes very seriously. Whoever replaces him will have to understand the particular relationship between Arsenal FC and us, its supporters. He or she will also have to understand the history of The Arsenal, something Vinai was very interested in (travelling to meet members of AISA at Woolwich). They will need to appreciate that Arsenal is not like other clubs – we do things differently here. Vinai gets this, he’s a trustee of the Arsenal Foundation that does such excellent work, and we hope he stays one if that is possible.
But most importantly whoever takes the reins must maintain and build on Vinai’s work to establish better fan engagement through its comms, through the AAB and Fans’ Forum, and the various working groups (on safe standing, ticketing, etc.). It is much easier to have good relations between club, players, and supporters when the results are good, we’re challenging for trophies, and the football is attractive but we all know that our game is subject to cycles. Having transparent and open fan engagement is the key to making sure we are all on the same side however the men and women are doing on the pitch. Picking the next Arsenal CEO is a big decision and one the club needs to get right. As always AISA is here to help and offer any advice the board might like to hear.
Meanwhile, we wish Vinai all the best and hope he enjoys with us the fruits of the groundwork he has helped lay.
Drew Gray – AISA AAB representative
(Picture above, Vinai and Drew at Arsenal Advisory Board meeting)