David Dein – The Arsenal Vice-President that changed the face of English Football

During the international break David Dein went on a publisher tour to promote his new book.

It would be an understatement to call Mr Dein’s role at Arsenal as simply ‘vice chairman’.

Yes, that was his official job title, but it would be wrongly educating that next generation of Gooner to say that’s all he did.

Dein had the dream career any football fan would want. Essentially in charge of the club he loved, able to persuade the board to dig a little deeper when needed, when managers were indecisive, he would be the one who would push them.

In many ways he was Mr Wenger’s right hand man. The coach would identify who he wanted and Dein would make it happen.

Share Holder

In 1983 David Dein became a shareholder of Arsenal, which given the state of the national game he said was worthless.

It did give him access through to the club’s accounts, at which point he noticed some shares were not accounted for.

He sent the directors a letter asking for 15 percent of shares, his offer a blank cheque.

He would end up paying 292,000 for 16 percent, a lot of money yes, but you’re not getting 16 percent of Arsenal for that much in 2022.

To put the numbers in perspective, Dein would get an eventual 11 million for 30 percent of his shares.


Others on the board called Dein’s shares dead money.

Attendances at the time were down, the sport was plagued by hooliganism issues, kick offs were strictly at 15.00 pm and were not events that were attracting females or families.

Dein had been to America often though, and had seen how their sports were being run.

In 1986, now on the board of the Football League, Mr Dein came up with concepts such as names on the back of shirts, 15 minute half times, more than one sub.

Concepts we take for granted now, but ideas laughed out of the office at the time

Eye for Talent

Dein would be part of board that would hire George Graham, part of the club’s policy of hiring ex Gunners.

Dein recommended to his peers another Scot for the job …… a certain Sir Alex Ferguson having been impressed with his work at Aberdeen.

He even tried a compromise of the two working together.

Given it would be Dein who introduced Arsene Wenger to Arsenal (originally in 1995) and later pushed for Sven Goran Erickson to manage his national side, Dein certainly recognises talent.

Formation of The Premier League

Dein was part of a group of 4 owners/chairman behind the formation of the Premier League.

Working closely with Greg Dyke in charge of ITV Sport Dein saw football as a market with untapped potential.

Based on nearly every measurable stream, England was below Italy and Spain in its popularity, while spectators complained about facilities at stadiums.

Dein was influential in creating a division that would have its own commercial independence from the Football League, allowing them to make their own sponsorships.

Sky would pay over 300 million for the TV rights.

The TV company equally deserve the credit for having the vision to change the presentation of the sport.

At first critiqued for essentially now having control over the kick off times of clubs, it would turn out to be one of Britain’s best creations.

The latest TV package was worth 4.8 billon!


Part of English Football’s new image was the Taylor Report which forced top flight clubs to, by law, make their stadiums safer, one of which all had to have safe seating.

In an emotional chapter of his book, Dein recalls meeting the parents of those who died at Hillsborough.

Dein said that was a major influence in changing English Football and wanting to make it a safe place for families to partake

Mr Wenger

The meeting of Me Wenger is simply destiny.

Arsene Wenger was staying over in London for one day so asked his agent to arrange him a fixture to attend.

It just so happened to be the day of the NLD.

Mr Wenger just so happened to need a lighter and of all the people he asked, happened to be the best friend of David Dein’s wife.

She introduced him to Mr Dein who invited the Frenchman to dinner.

So if Mr Wenger hadn’t been in the Capital that day, wasn’t a smoker and had asked anyone else for a lighter, our history could have been very different.

Dein’s exit

Again showing he was good at seeing what was coming, David Dein saw that Arsenal were falling behind their rivals, so pushed for a financial backer.

Paying off the debt to build the Emirates coincided with Chelsea and eventually Man City’s takeovers.

A true fan, David Dein didn’t want Arsenal to just take the money from qualifying for the Champions League, he wanted to be competitive.

Clearly the board disagreed and were happy for Arsenal to become a club only happy to finish in the top 4.

That we haven’t won the title since Mr Dein left proves he was right.

Convinces Mr Wenger to Stay

On the same day he was essentially sacked, Mr Wenger out of loyalty suggested he would resign.

Knowing that certain banks would only loan Arsenal money on the condition that their manager stayed on, Dein convinced his friend to stay.

Womens Team

Again due to his knowledge of American sport it was David Dein who asked his board for funding to create a women’s team.

He was initially accused of this being a PR stunt.

Twinning project

Dein currently works with prisons, offering sporting and referring qualifications in jails, encouraging eventual employment.

This is now an official government scheme.

Dan Smith

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  1. No idea what the following threads will be like but these discussions will undoubtedly go on forever. There is no disputing to Dean’s role in taking Arsenal to another level and also his vision in helping to revitalise a stagnant First Division. As the song goes, “They can’t take that away from me”.

  2. Dein, a great man sorely missed by the club. I suppose in today’s parlance his title would probably be Director of Football. Good article but couldn’t see any mention of him introducing Stan Kroenke to the club and the eventual ramifications of this, but some interesting stuff there I did not know about.

  3. Dein did good things and also made mistakes, although most articles here about him emphasise the former and skate over (or misrepresent) the latter.

    For instance, the takeover of Chelsea did not “coincide with repaying the stadium rebuild debt”. Abramovic took over Chelsea in 2003 and immediately began pumping in money as both gifts and loans (prior to FFP, so not limited in any way).

    The stadium rebuild was completed in 2006 and ran over budget by more than double. It is not paid off to this day, quite the reverse…

    As recently as 2020, I believe, Kroenke refinanced the stadium loan so that it was owed to KSE instead of the original lenders. This involved payment of early repayment penalties and entail interest payments of £11m a year from the club to KSE.

    Then there’s the original decision to float 100% of the club’s shares, opening the door to the club losing control of its own affairs, which is what happened (a full takeover by Kroenke after a damaging number of years of wrangling). Not his decision alone of course, but as part of the Board.

    I’ve posted links to this and other details before, but 99% of the posters here don’t comment on them and I assume that they don’t read them… because they simply go on posting a rather rose-tinted version of events.

    Dein meant well, he was very pro Arsenal and had many successes but to present a balanced view, we should also acknowledge that he also had some major failures, often due to what looked like panic over what other clubs were doing.

    And, apparently, his enthusiasm and self-belief sometimes meant Dein allowing himself to stray into inappropriate behaviour when going behind the Board’s back to get his own way – and getting himself sacked in the process.

  4. I hope one day Afc could be benefited from the wisdom of DD and the like. I wish that day is starting from today.

  5. I happen to read the articles from both link posted by IDKWI.

    Mr. Dien is certainly an Arsenal old stalwart.
    But having let Kroenke through the back door at Arsenal against the board wishes and again let in the Russian, he may had made a mistake there.

    In that regard Mr David Dien can hardly be suprise when he was sack and must have been looking over his shoulders.

    Both Mr David Dein and Henry Norris are two great men in Arsenal history that had made mistakes.

    It is said great men make great mistakes.

  6. I prefer to remember the man for all the great things he did for Arsenal. After all, nobody is perfect. It’s a huge shame Arsenal Football Shop refuse to sell his book in their shop

  7. I thought I’m gonna smoke myself to the grave without any significant achievements. Knowing now that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be the Arsenal legend that he is right now without being a smoker, just gave me a much needed relive.

  8. One thing that is not up for debate is the fact Dein and Wenger were a great team that worked well together. The club never really found someone to work that way with Wenger again. Hopefully, Edu/Arteta is a similar combination of minds.

  9. During his time at the club 1983 to 2007, we had our most successful years of modern times. during his tenure we won the league in 1989, 91, 98, 02, and 04. We did also win several Cup titles, included The UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. From my point of view Dein has been one of the most influential individuals in our club last 50 years. We haven’t won the league since he left, and I doubt it’s a coincidence.

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