Stan Kroenke has completed the full takeover of Arsenal Football Club, having already agreed a deal with Alisher Usmanov late last month to buy the Russian’s 30% stake – the only stumbling block which had previously thwarted him from full control.
Confirmation of the news has divided supporters. Some have been left feeling frustrated while others are taking a more understanding approach, knowing modern-day football is not the same now as it once was.
This type of deal reiterates that sentiment for Arsenal fans, who felt disappointed the club’s unorthodox ownership structure was essentially being destroyed before their eyes. That some fans themselves were able to purchase and own shares in a club of the Gunners’ size, seemed something that was always going to eventually catch up to them.
Kroenke’s power tussle with Usmanov had been widely reported in recent years, just like the club’s on-field struggles. However, it speaks volumes that this was done in such ruthless manner ahead of the new campaign, given the wholesale changes across the club this summer.
Why Kroenke wanted full control
Having already been the club’s largest shareholder, Kroenke naturally wanted to benefit fully from the profits as Arsenal’s worth continued to increase on a yearly basis. Rumoured to be worth £731m in 2011, his £600m offer in August meant the club’s value had since increased significantly – to a reported £1.8bn.
He had already staked a beneficial interest in the voting rights and had a considerable amount from existing shares that had been made available to select supporters.
Given his KSE investments include ownership of US teams across four sports, it should come as no surprise that he too was recording impressive profit margins on a yearly basis. Having effectively silenced Usmanov’s influence within the club, why not go for the jugular?
He turned 71 over the summer and naturally sees son Josh as the long-term successor to his throne. Completing deals like this provide him with opportunities to earn more exposure in the UK, while boosting his chances of a senior role at Arsenal in future.
Why are the fans upset?
“Kroenke taking the club private will see the end of supporters owning shares in Arsenal and their role upholding custodianship values. Many are AST [Arsenal Supporter’s Trust] members and hold their shares not for value but as custodians who care for the future of the club. Kroenke’s actions will neuter their voice and involvement – in effect legalised theft to remove a brake on how Arsenal is managed,” read an AST statement in August.
That Kroenke has the nickname “Silent Stan” doesn’t bode well either, as it also suggests less transparency and accountability on the club’s behalf behind-the-scenes. He’s barely, if at all, really engaged with supporters and is more focused on business. Rather than helping Arsenal reach their full potential by investing smartly in the team – which would see a value surge – he persists in keeping quiet and watches from overseas.
Having first bought shares in 2007, Kroenke has not once placed money into the team. The Gunners have taken pride for being a self-sustaining business, that spends what they earn and does so with a cautious nature leaving their league rivals open to criticise them for such lofty ambitions of regular silverware.
Gone will be the days of an annual general meeting, where supporters gather to discuss concerns and issues moving forward which need resolving. Scrapped altogether, as will their detailed public accounts that show people where money is being allocated for various sub-sections.
Fans themselves will now be rendered helpless to stop the club from falling into disrepute, if assets are stripped given the new ownership structure under one sole owner.
With no-one to question his decisions, hold him accountable for the club’s finances nor simply urge him to take more of a hands-on approach to improving the club he’s paid so much to be part of, this situation is bleak in north London and unlikely to get better quickly.