What better way to win back favour with disgruntled fans than by saving a dying symbol of their bond with the club?
Arsenal fans have had the misfortune of missing out on live football for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and their connection to the club was dealt a heavier blow earlier this year with the news that fan-favourite pub The Tollington Arms faces permanent closure.
The pub, which is saddled with six figures of debt, has been a popular match day hotspot for Arsenal fans ever since the move to the Emirates Stadium in 2006. It is located on Hornsey Road, just a 5-minute walk from the stadium, and has recently hosted the book signings of former players Alan Smith and Per Mertesacker. The latter is also the current manager of the Arsenal Academy.
After being closed for over a year due to government lockdowns and fans not being allowed in stadiums, they are being asked to pay £128 thousand pounds in rental arrears.
The pub’s owner Martin Whelan said: “We simply do not have a business to operate presently”. His revenue is heavily dependant on match going fans.
Arsenal, despite their ownership being widely criticised, pride themselves in their community work. In the aftermath of the wildly unpopular Super League proposal, fans have been vocal in their condemnation of the club’s ownership. The US-based Kroenke family have governed the club from a distance and are seen as out of touch with the experience of everyday fans.
In a recent Fans’ Forum, Josh Kroenke apologised to supporters for recent blunders and said “we need to build a bridge, and we will”, when questioned about the club’s waning relationship with its fan base.
12,000 Arsenal fans have already signed a petition in support of the endangered pub, asking the government to intervene against “unscrupulous landlords and property developers”. The fight to save The Tollington Arms has grasped social media and is seen as a further test of fan power, after supporter groups pressured clubs to withdraw from the proposed Super League.
At a time when Arsenal’s hierarchy is deeply unpopular, the club would score an easy win by, at the very least, publicly standing in solidarity with a beloved part of the Arsenal community. Financial support for the pub would be an entirely different question, however the Tollington Arm’s debt does amount to a fraction of Arsenal’s weekly wage bill. In fact, the entire £128 thousand pounds owed represents less than half of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s reported weekly wage, as per The Times.
When asked about the possibility of the club supporting them, Whelan responded: “We’ve had some discussions with a few people within the club. There are wheels in motion!”
“It was more them being made aware of our situation with the petition and a few friends of ours from the club reaching out.”
The Tollington Arms reopened last month when Arsenal hosted Brighton on May 23rd, but its long-term survival is still in question.
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