What Seems to Be the Problem?: Arsenal, Money and Stan Kroenke

Without question, every football fan who daydreams about becoming a club owner does not imagine themselves to be like Stan Kroenke. No, Roman Abramovich would be the model for most: a money-no-object competitor with a ruthless intolerance for mediocrity. The club would come before everything else, and all of the very best players would fall all over themselves to come and be a part of the excellence. Nothing would stop the constant stream of quality making its way to the team: not small trifling issues like money left in the club accounts or those pesky Financial Fair Play restrictions. And of course, all of this is so obvious, so ridiculously simple, that surely any old fool could see that it is the right thing to do. Speaking of fools, they are often easily parted from their money – so why not have a look at having a flutter on the weekend international matches using the bonus codes 2018.
There is one small problem with all of that, however. This is the real world, football clubs are businesses, and running any business so recklessly would either mean total failure, or the constant need for an influx of capital just to keep that business afloat. In this real world, most owners are actually like Stan Kroenke.
Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke is perhaps the most publicly hated of any in the Premier League. An owner of several sports franchises across the pond, Kroenke first bought into the club in 2007, and had increased his holdings to a majority share of the club by 2011. Through the years, he has morphed into an ally of the club’s board but a mortal enemy of the average fan. The American is now blamed for everything at the club, from the decision to keep Arsene Wenger as manager, to the price of tickets, right down to the lack of investment in players during the transfer window.
In truth he makes an easy target: his gaudy, wide lapel pinstriped power suits, his Hercule Poirot moustache, and his absence from most matches are easily noticed by the fans. As an American, he is treated with extreme skepticism by the fans who don’t see his as a culture that understands football, and certainly not one that understands Arsenal. They will also point to his American sports franchises and their relative lack of success as proof that he is not up to the challenge of carrying one of England’s most storied clubs forward. Every day brings a fresh barrage of fans to social media, almost at wits end about how this man, this terrible man could be ruining their club so much.
But what has he actually done to hurt the club? Sure, it looks different today than it did to longtime fans that remember the Highbury days. Arsenal’s global appeal has expanded in the decade since, and now the fan base is more diverse than ever, but is that a bad thing? The ticket prices are undoubtedly extremely high, but is that not to be expected from a big club in a shiny new home in one of the wealthiest cities in the world?
The problem here is that fans want their proverbial cake, and they want to eat it too. Fans look around at the Manchester clubs and Chelsea and then tell the club they demand competition at the top with those teams, but where will that money come from? Fans will look at the reports of over £100 million in the club coffers and ask why it hasn’t all been spent on players. After all, isn’t that what it is for?
When Arsenal began their stadium migration from Highbury to the Emirates, the club had a plan. As one of the two biggest clubs in England, along with Manchester United, the move was a way of cementing their place at the top. The giant new revenue streams generated by the new stadium would help ensure, after a few lean years to get on top of the construction loans, that Arsenal remained at the top of the league. Then, with a Roman Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea, everything changed. As football clubs became ever more lucrative, it was no longer just football fans that saw owning a club as a desirable proposition, but big money businessmen as well. Sheikh Mansour would follow later in the decade with his purchase of Manchester City, and the result was clear. Suddenly, Arsenal’s bulletproof plan for sustained presence at the top was now a plan that only guaranteed a finish in and around the top 4, because the club’s financial clout was obliterated by this influx of reckless investment.
The amount of money that those clubs spend on players has turned the heads of many Arsenal fans in the last decade. Kroenke is now considered by many to be unambitious because he doesn’t spend money out of pocket for players. It is an absurd charge, and one that never would have been levelled against him were it not for the much-publicised transfer figures being paid out in dizzying fashion by rival owners. The fact is, what those clubs do is the exception, not the norm. 99.99% of football clubs are run like businesses and try not to spend more money than they make year after year. Even Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City is planning for his club to be self-sustaining JUST LIKE Kroenke is.
The advantage that those teams have enjoyed for so long is their open-ended sponsorship or capital agreements, in which the books are balanced by outside investments in order to make them FFP compliant. There are some who question the ethics of such practices because it only serves to increase the advantage that those super powerful clubs have and circumnavigate the spirit of the rules. Roman Abramovich has long performed this sort of ‘out of the left pocket, into the right one’ balancing act to keep the club healthy on paper, despite technically having over a billion pounds in loans.
The bottom line is that at Arsenal Football Club, the perception of the owner is far worse than the reality. While the ticket prices continue to rise at a rate that far exceeds the expansion of the trophy cabinet, there is an end goal. Fans may like to believe that an owner should continually invest large sums in the club long after their initial purchase, but that is not a sentiment echoed by actual owners. Instead, Kroenke is doing what any good owner and businessman would do when he lacks the resources of his fiercest rivals: building the club up at every level and making sure that the future is not irreparably damaged in the pursuit of immediate glory.
Sorry Arsenal fans, but your owner is here to stay, and he really isn’t that bad.

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