What difference would it make if Daniel Ek and Thierry Henry took over Arsenal?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

It seems like several hundred years ago that some fans gathered outside the Emirates to protest at the ownership of Arsenal, with multiple calls for the Kroenke family to remove themselves from the club forthwith.

That protest movement, fully supported and to a degree orchestrated by AFTV seemed to be very much on the rise for a while, and got a lot of extra momentum as results were said to be faltering.  The notion that the ownership had appointed the wrong manager in Mikel Arteta spread, and this failure was directly connected with not spending enough money.

But then as Kroenke expenditure on the club grew, the argument was that Arsenal were buying the wrong players – although of course it is the management not the owners who actually chooses which player to buy.  

As Arsenal’s results improved last season so the clamour for a change of ownership faded but now, perhaps surprisingly, it seems to be on the rise once again, as Thierry Henry has continued his friendship with Daniel Ek, the owner of Spotify, to whom I give a little bit of money each month to allow me to do background work for the other blog that I work on.

The publicity machine rolls on notably with Thierry in lots of pictures beside Mr Ek, and maybe another bid will be forthcoming.  Maybe it might even be successful – although the Kroenke family are not known for selling.

And this raises three questions.   Why would the Kroenke’s sell?  And would a change of ownership make any difference?  After all what do owners actually do?

That last question might seem strange, but that’s because it is not normally asked.   What would a new owner do that the current owner doesn’t? 

The most obvious point is that a new owner might allow Arsenal to spend in the way that Chelsea and Manchester City have spent more.  Except there seemed to be no restriction on who the manager could buy this summer – all the reports we have are about him going out and buying exactly who he wanted.

And perhaps as a result, our manager has been doing rather well.  Not just in turning around the club’s results so that we have had impressive runs both over the last two thirds of last season, and over the last 10 games the club has played, but also in seemingly choosing the right players to buy.  Not always the players we expected or had even heard of, but looking at the way they are fitting in, it would seem that we have been getting the right players.

Which leads to the point that there has to be a limit on how many new players we can buy.  The revolution in the playing squad this past summer is hardly something that can be repeated over and over again each year, because long term success is also based on long term stability.

And if not players, then what?  What else would a new owner bring?

One could argue that a new owner might have a deeper understanding of English football and so not become involved with the attempted breakaway of the SuperLeague.  That’s possible, but now that the courts have ruled against Uefa in its attempt to ban SuperLeague outright, supposing the other clubs involved all decided to go with it once again, or take up a revised version of it in the future, what would happen to Arsenal if we stood aside?

TV would gobble up the SuperLeague whatever format it came in.  And while Mr Ek might stand by the view of the fans not to be involved, is it likely that the owners of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea would also bend to the wishes of the supporters?  I doubt it – which would mean we could be left standing out in the cold as TV focused on the new games.

No, the notion that the owner of a club does anything other than rubber stamp decisions of management and then pay for the mistakes, is itself mistaken.

As we pointed out recently in an article, billionaires own sports clubs because they see them as having a continually rising set of revenue streams, be it new games, video opportunities, clothing sales, digital spinoffs or anything else.  For anyone not involved in such activities those areas can seem to be very small beer, but that is a false vision.  The spin-offs are unregulated and operate on a world-wide basis.  That’s why clubs are so expensive even when the clubs make a loss.  It is the financial spin offs that generate the fortunes.

So a change of ownership would mean… what exactly?  A more acceptable face at the top?   Maybe in that I can’t see Mr Ek trying to bring a TV channel to England which focuses on killing animals, but otherwise, I can’t see what difference it would make.