Monday 20 February 2012 8:16 pm

Arsenal urged to consider rights issue to protect £50m war chest

STRUGGLING Arsenal were last night urged to consider issuing new shares in a bid to bolster their finances and free up cash for new players. The Gunners are poised to confirm more healthy financial results, with last summer’s sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri swelling their available cash to £50m. But that could be obliterated if they miss out on next season’s Champions League, which would cost the club around £45m, the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust estimate. The AST has asked the board and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to reconsider a rights issue, should the club miss out on the top four. Kroenke’s rival shareholder Alisher Usmanov proposed the step in 2009, arguing that the team needed fresh capital to end their silverware drought. The board rejected the idea then as unnecessary, citing advice from manager Arsene Wenger, but the AST believes it is time to pose the question again. Incoming Financial Fair Play laws would allow new money to be used to pay down remaining stadium debt, freeing up funds for Wenger to invest in his struggling team. Kroenke (right), who will fly into London for a board meeting this week, may be reluctant to endorse the move as it would force the American to either plough millions of pounds into the club or accept a watering-down of his stock. Extra shares could fall into the hands of Russian billionaire Usmanov, who has been snapping up stock in a bid to take his holding over 30 per cent. “This could flush out whether Kroenke is just interested in money,” the AST’s Tim Payton told City A.M. “An issue would mean that he benefits from having a stronger and healthier club.”

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