For my sins and graces, I am a supporter of Arsenal FC, having lived within earshot of Highbury for 20 years. I will continue to support Arsène Wenger, his staff and the players, but the Board has now lost my confidence. First there was David Dein telling Patrick Vieira, in my view Arsenal's greatest-ever player, that the club was neutral about keeping him. But that's about the playing side, and Dein is paid to make those decisions, so I could forgive that.
But then there was the decision to accept £100 million in sponsorship money from Emirates Airline. Emirates Airline is owned by the Emirates Group, which is itself owned by the Dubai government (read, the al-Maktoum family), which founded the company in 1985. The chairman is HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, who is also president of Dubai's civil aviation authority. In other words, Emirates Airline isn't an ordinary commercial company - it is the state airline of the UAE and an agency of the Maktoum 'royal' family of the Dubai emirate. There is no voting nor voters in the UAE, and political parties are forbidden. The state dictates who runs the Sunni mosques and what is preached in them at Friday prayers. So the UAE manages to offend the sensibilities of democrats and Islamists alike. But the Maktoum 'royal' family in Dubai has managed to seduce the West, first with its oil wealth and now in its diversification into tourism and commerce. Arsenal FC should not be promoting the interests of the Maktoum family, which is an enemy of both secular and religious freedom.
And now the board of directors has gone and signed an agreement with Israel to promote Israel as 'Arsenal's' tourist destination of choice, both on the website and on banners around the new ground, the Emirates Stadium (see above). Oddly, the news was not announced, and is not yet posted, on the Arsenal website. But Israel's tourism minister commented: "(Through the deal with Arsenal) Israel will get a lot of coverage as a preferred tourist destination in the consciousness of millions of people, not only in England, but around Europe and the world."
To Arsenal, it's worth £350,000 in the first season - peanuts compared to the UAE deal but the Israelis seem satisfied. But we, ie Arsenal, shouldn't be accepting Israeli money, nor promoting its interests "in the consciousness of millions". It's as morally reprehensible as the Emirates sponsorship, and arguably more so. Israel has an arsenal of 120-plus nuclear weapons, unbound from any treaty agreements with the IAEA or the UN, which are pointing at Tehran, Qom and Damascus. While Israel has an undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons and other WMD, Arsenal FC shouldn't be taking Israel's money. When Israel agrees with Syria that the Middle East should be WMD-free, then we should take their money (provided they've also returned Jerusalem and the West Bank to its people).
The Arsenal board of directors' seem willing to accept money from anyone, even if that leaves the fans more vulnerable to terrorist attack. At the moment, the club accepts my money as a registered user of the website (although I haven't attended a match for years). Unless Arsenal FC changes its decision, my moral imperative will be to withdraw my miniscule financial support from it. I'll miss the video of match-highlights and player interviews, damn it.