Sack the board

Arsenal have a new business venture. Al Needham has a go at Arsenal Monopoly

Monopoly is a board game that extols the virtues of avarice, greed and per­sonal gain to the detriment of everyone else. “The game reflects the essence and spirit of Arsenal football club,” says a spokesman for the makers of Monopoly, who have launched a new version of the Sunday afternoon pursuit of driving other members of the family into bankruptcy with the help of a couple of dice and a Get Out Of Jail card.

In an age when the sales of board games have been flagging in the wake of the console, Monopoly have been punting out special ed­itions for years, and now The Arse have joined the hallowed ranks of Star Wars, Pokémon, The Wizard of Oz, the US armed forces, the New York Yankees and The Simpsons. It makes you wonder why Man Utd didn’t have their own version years ago, and is as much a sign of the shift in the balance of power as any bit of silverware. I bet Fergie is overturning desks and screaming at the marketing department at Old Trafford as I write.

The game, you’ll be pleased (or disappointed) to hear, hasn’t changed a bit. Instead of the Old Kent Road, they originally offered David Seaman (pounced upon by the papers – it was a very quiet week). Instead of Mayfair, there’s Arsène Wenger. This category error is a common flaw in all Special Edition Monopoly games, and with a club of Arsenal’s rich heritage there are more suit­able land­marks they could have used – the chip shop across the road, the only tube station named after a football club, the Pizza Hut where Tony Adams let off the fire extinguisher, Peter Mari­nello’s bout­ique, the Clock End toilets – but instead, the thrill of owning chunks of London has been compromised.

The only way to play the game properly is to pretend to be a football agent and charge others for appearance fees, I suppose, but that all depends if you can stand to see your mother with a cigar in her hand bellowing “Monster, Monster! You just landed on Ian Wright!” after Christmas dinner. Oh, and don’t go looking for Paul Merson – he’s been surprisingly air­brushed from the rich tapestry of Arsenal.

Other opportunities have gone begging. Why didn’t they call Community Chest “New Stadium Bond Scheme”? And surely the Chance cards would have been more in keep­ing with the tradition of Arsenal by having Charlie Nicholas’s face on them, with forfeits like “You have been caught flogging pirate away strips and fined £500” or “Congratulations! You have come second place in a Ray Par­lour lookalike competition! You win £100!” Mind you, they have made a telling comment or two within the board layout – the dreaded Super Tax just before Mayfair that has financially crippled many a player has been replaced by an Arsenal season ticket.

Having said that, it’s the essential purchase for Arsenal fans, and it’s selling so quickly that the manufacturers predict you’ll be hard pushed to find one in the shops by the time the January sales come along – but there’s also an Arsenal Top Trumps set for those vicarious Seventies-related thrills.

Look out next year for Manchester United Operation (remove the elastic band from Lau­ren Blanc’s knee for £200), Robbie Savage Buckaroo (how many feathers and balloons can you place on Robbie before he collapses in the penalty area?), Big Five Trivial Pursuit (you, as a top-flight manager, have to pick from a squad of 15 year-olds for that vital third round Worthington Cup tie) and Leeds United Hangman. With Terry Venables.

From WSC 191 January 2003. What was happening this month