Despite mostly being owned by people who are so rich they could buy a new car every time they want to drive somewhere, sports teams are in a bit of a financial bind right now. With zero or limited fans in attendance, the moneymaking matchday machine has ceased to work. As such, teams are cutting costs.
One club that has done such cost-cutting is Arsenal, which is owned by American rich dude Stan Kroenke. On transfer deadline day, Arsenal axed its dinosaur mascot, Gunnersaurus—or, rather, they axed the guy who has played him since the mascot’s inception in 1994, Jerry Quy. Per The Athletic, Quy was a part-timer who had been a lifelong fan of the club. He was let go along with 55 others in cost-cutting measures.
Gunnersaurus hadn’t ever scored a goal for Arsenal, but fans were incredibly upset. “Today will go down in history as one of the darkest days at the club,” one wrote, while another said he would “never forgive this club.” Others were upset that news of the mascot’s dismissal came on the same day the club signed Thomas Partey for £45 million. It wasn’t just fans. “Unbelievable,” former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson said. “All them kids, the Junior Gunners, there will be 30 and 40-year-old fans who have grown up with that dinosaur.” The Independent’s Ed Cumming said it was a sign of the times: “Like so many dinosaurs, Gunnersaurus was a relic of a past era.”
The news reverberated past Arsenal fans. One blog said Tottenham Hotspur was making a “cheeky bid” for the free agent mascot, cheeky being a word the English use to make being rude sound nicer. “¡Sevilla ficha a Gunnersaurus!” read a headline in Mexico’s Medio Tiempo, noting un truco chistoso where Sevilla bid for the dino mascot.
Meanwhile, other clubs made sure to tell their fans that their mascots were staying. Swindon Town FC, owned by former Norwich City forward Lee Power, said its horrifying Rockin’ Robin mascot would remain employed by the club. Similarly horrifying Partick Thistle mascot Kingsley offered his condolences to Gunnersaurus as well: “He was surprisingly down to earth, and VERY funny.”
It’s not surprising that Gunnersaurus is so beloved. Like many other mascots, he has a tremendous backstory. In a cheeky profile of Gunnersaurus earlier this year, The Athletic’s James McNicholas described the dinosaur’s origin in the summer of 1994: “[D]uring the reconstruction of Highbury’s legendary North Bank, work was halted when builders excavating below the surface discovered what can only be described as a massive egg.” The egg was swaddled in Arsenal gear, hatched and escaped to root on the Gunners. “It seems most likely to me that Gunnersaurus is what we call a theropod dinosaur,” Paul Barrett, senior dinosaur specialist at London’s Natural History Museum, told McNicholas.
(As with any great legend, there is some confusion over the dates. Arsenal’s website says Gunnersaurus debuted in the summer of 1993, but a check of the archives shows he actually debuted at a 3-0 win over Man City on August 20, 1994. Hey, dinosaur dating is imprecise.)
The real story of Gunnersaurus’s origin is quite cute as well. Peter Lowell, then an Arsenal-obsessed 11-year-old, drew the original mascot for a contest in 1994. (Gunnersaurus made a surprise appearance at Lowell’s wedding years later.) His legend has grown since then; Gunnersaurus has even been the recipient of a 1,900-word profile by Serious Longform Journalist Chris Jones.
It was only a matter of time before Gunnersaurus made a comeback. Though the initial report in The Athletic said Quy’s dismissal was only meant to be temporary, people demanded their giant dinosaur mascot stay with the team even though there are no fans in the stands. Some fans set up a GoFundMe. But Arsenal’s Mesut Özil, who has been with Arsenal since 2013, went even further by offering to pay Quy’s salary.
Özil has been linked with a move away from Arsenal for more than a year, but remains with the club for now. Perhaps if he leaves, he could create some sort of Gunnersaurus endowment fund?