By Tony Attwood
There is a document doing the rounds of supporters clubs in which it is argued that the Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke is holding back the club by refusing to invest in player transfers to a sufficient degree. This follows on from the widely held view that the transfer budget for the summer is £45m, and that anything beyond that has to be funded by sales and the resultant cuts in salaries achieved through sales. £45m, it is argued, is far from adequate if Arsenal want to challenge for trophies.
As a result, it is suggested, Ozil, currently on the highest salary, will go to Turkey on loan to play, but that Arsenal will still pay part of his salary. Of course this is just one of the 100 or more daily rumours that are propagated by newspapers and blogs, so we shouldn’t take it seriously (particulary as virtually every player in the entire first team squad has now been tipped to depart). But getting rid of such a talented player in such a way does not seem very sensible. But it is an outcome of the way that Arsenal is not being invested in, in the way that Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United have been invested in.
So far this summer (and here I am speaking only in general terms – we’ll do an up to date list of all transfers shortly) Arsenal is showing a net loss on transfers of £2.5m. Chelsea (who now have what we might call an absentee owner) are showing a profit of some £65m having bought Kovacic and sold Hazard and others.
Liverpool are £21m in profit having sold Ings and others. But Manchester City are £65m down having bought Rodri. Manchester United are £60m down much of that from buying Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Tottenham are £65m out of pocket from having bought Ndombele and Clarke.
So it can be argued that Arsenal are already falling behind – although of course the window is open until just before the start of the new season.
Such is the strength of the feeling that I have heard it proposed within some of the more excitable supporters’ groups that they plan to disrupt the annual invite-only meeting for supporters at the Arsenal Stadium before the season starts, at which a special guest will be introduced to fans.
We had one of those last year, and it was a great success, given that Arsenal’s new manager was the special guest – and despite is limited time to adjust to the language and the club Mr Emery took questions from the fans. This year my guess is that the guest will be Edu. But if the plan to disrupt the meeting goes ahead, then that I suspect will be the end of such occasions, which would be a shame.
Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s managing director, has of course fully backed Kroenke, and spoken up about the Kroenke family’s engagement with the club. He was reported on the Arsenal web site as saying “Stan and Josh Kroenke are in sport because they’re passionate about sport and because they want to win. They’re hugely ambitious around where they want to take this football club and they remind us of that all the time. They’re massively involved.”
But that doesn’t accord with the success, or lack of it, of other Kroenke franchises, nor with the way in which fans are treated. We all remember how he took vast amounts of tax payers money to build a new stadium in St Louis, and then without any consultation simply moved the club to LA. That is the man we are dealing with.
So when Venkatesham says of the owning family, “They’re hugely involved in what we do, they are hugely knowledgeable about sport. It’s well-known that they have an American Football team, an NBA team, an NHL team, an MLS team and a lacrosse team, so they know sport… ” we know what he means.
They know about how to manipulate the clubs they own to make a fortune without any respect of tradition, or the fans.
I doubt that there are many if any Arsenal fans who are in favour of Kroenke ownership, and I suspect not many are pleased that the previous major shareholders sold out to Kroenke in the first place simply for their own personal gain and without any thought as to the future of the club (given how Kroenke has worked with other sports clubs he owns). The Bracewell-Smith and Hill-Wood families are the people who betrayed the original vision of Arsenal as a club owned by its fans.
I suspect therefore that most Arsenal supporters are against the ownership of the club by its current owner, but the question is, what should be done about it.
The problem is that after two years of “Wenger Out” banners and placards, the move over to a series of “Kroenke out” demonstrations and signs carries far less weight, and is very likely to have no impact and make the supporters who want progress look inept. Even the media, always ready to run negative stories about Arsenal, will probably laugh at supporters who campaigned for Wenger Out, got what they wanted, and now are realising that they hit the wrong target.
This is an area where actions and statements need to be chosen carefully. Thus far I am not at all sure this is happening. But certainly, in answer to the question above, on the basis of such evidence we have, I’d say, it is money money money in the bank that is the objective of the owner.
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