At the outset, I’ll make my position clear. I don’t like the singular ownership model of football clubs. There’s too much power in not enough hands, and bad decisions are easily made before being a long time in being rectified.
Stan Kroenke’s move to buy the remaining shares in the club brought mixed feelings. I dislike Usmanov. He was an opportunist, a billionaire who courted popularity with well-timed jabs but he was a lightweight in a heavyweight bout.
Personally reprehensible, the Uzbek said the right things when he knew he had nothing to lose. Kroenke never had any intention of agreeing to a rights issue but Usmanov scored PR points off it, knowing his cash was safe.
He’s now gone, so I allow myself a little cheer. Yay!
But in his absence, there is now a bigger problem. Stan Kroenke owns Arsenal. For the first time in the club’s history, there is one owner. No plurality, just Stan. Whom I detest as much as Usmanov for different reasons. Politics, essentially, and all to do with Wal-mart. That’s for another time, but not today on this blog.
This day has been a long time coming. When billionaires get involved in football clubs, the minority shareholders never fare well. They do, however, bid farewell to their shares eventually.
None of us know anything about how KSE finances are structured. Most of what is feared is based on what might happen; normal business practice strongly points to them happening. It’s guesswork because the finances on billionaires are run by snake oil salesman.
Borrowing money to buy a business is normal practice. Getting the business to service that loan is normal business practice. So far, Stan hasn’t done anything a ‘normal businessman’ wouldn’t do.
Stan – Not A Romantic Image
An even bigger problem is that Stan doesn’t fit the romantic image of a billionaire football club owner. After a decade in the doldrums, if he suddenly threw money at the transfer budget in the way FSG are at Liverpool, I’d guess a lot of opposition to him owning Arsenal would disappear.
But he’s not going to and we know it.
Which is why the normal business practice of loans being serviced by the club grates. He’s buying Arsenal for free because the club is buying itself. So far, Stan has not invested in Arsenal but taken £6m out. Now he can do so unchallenged.
We’ll see it as well. EPL rules mean Arsenal must be an English company so information will still be filed at Companies House. It doesn’t mean the holding company must be English so Holdings will toddle off to Delaware to become a file on a computer server.
That obscurity, those veils of secrecy, will be Stan’s biggest friend. Nobody will know what is going on unless the information is gathered by nefarious means.
That obscurity, those veils of secrecy, will be Stan’s biggest enemy. Fertile imaginations will run riot, no matter how healthy the club’s accounts look. This is Nightmare on Drayton Park. Only this time the villain despoiling your dreams it isn’t an iron-fingered school janitor, it’s wig-wearing builder from Missouri.
I think we also need to recognise that Stan isn’t going to run Arsenal into the ground. It isn’t in his best interests to do that; he wants a business he can sell for top dollar. He will keep the club in rude financial health. But the business of Arsenal is sport, and Stan has a long history of a lack of ambition on the pitch.
Ambition – What Is Good For?
People point to the Rams and their postseason in 2017. A young coach, vibrant thinking; it’s not all doom and gloom. Why the sudden burst of ambition? A new stadium to fill, $2bn-worth of TV rights.
What about the Nuggets, the NBA’s equivalent of Arsenal? Or the Avalanche, NHL’s version of Arsenal? Or the Rapids? More hopeless at reaching the Champions League than we are.
The Mammoth, his shining star in a sporting sense, is not 10 years without a Lacross title. Monotonously finishing second or third, losing in the semi-finals of the playoffs which follow.
It’s the singular lack of sporting ambition without the need to generate money which fills me with dread.
If Arsenal is servicing loans, then the top four will become a priority but we won’t get there through investment. There won’t be a huge splurge in the transfer market. Our route is being cleverer and more hard working on the pitch. And ultimately, winning that way is more gratifying than by cash.
It’s nothing unusual either. Bar the 1930s, we have never been England’s richest club nor a record investor in the transfer market. Look at our record fee in the early part of this century for evidence of that.
The problem for Arsenal is that other clubs are investing heavily in their playing staff. Everton’s billionaire owner is backing the club. Now they may not be players we would buy – certainly not Richarlison – but it only takes one season of mediocrity on our part for us to miss out on European football entirely.
That’s the danger of the lack of sporting ambition which the Kroenke’s bring.
The timing of the announcement took some of the shine off the new season. Momentarily, I hope. This mood will pass as life settles down as the season gets underway.
People point to billionaire owners but Stan isn’t one of them. We hope he isn’t a Gillett and Hicks either; one runs ski lodges and the other continues to look for a ‘deal’. Snake oil salesman and not poster boys for the Premier League age.
How did we get to this? David Dein shoulders the blame. He was right: money was needed to keep the club at the top of the table but his judgement was sorely lacking. A rudimentary glance at Kroenke’s MO told Dein Stan wasn’t going to invest in the club at all.
We were told the directors were custodians. They got wealthy off the back of that line but proved exceptionally poor at that role. Danny Fiszman’s untimely death was the catalyst but the damage to Arsenal was already done when Kroenke was invited on board.
Custodians? Cowards is a better word.
A part of the soul of Arsenal Football Club died today. Commerce won and while football now is a global business, the roots of the club were in the community. Now Arsenal’s roots are in a filing cabinet in Delaware.
For fans, the bond with the club is weakened. Not the one to the XI but to the club itself. The club which was once the hub of the community is less ours than it was yesterday.
Fortunately, the social side of going to a game has yet to die although any more pub closures around the ground and we may change that tune. When the fun stops, stop. Let’s hope the fun of football never stops because if it does, what is the point.
There used to be football club over there. Now it’s just a part of the Wal-mart family. And that is no good thing at all.