If you’re a regular reader of this blog (all 10 of you – hi dad!) you know I like to write. Sadly, I’ve fallen into a version of writer’s block that seems to go hand-in-hand with being an Arsenal supporter. The current run of form is so bad that it has literally sapped any enjoyment about the club from me.
I am so frustrated that I just don’t seem to have it in me to give a toss about writing. What are we going to write about? Everyone has said it all. Some really good stuff has come out of Arseblog, Gunnerblog and Goonerholic in the last few days.
So just when I can’t seem to stir up the energy to write, Stanely Enos Kroenke serves up a big fat softball for me to take a swing at. Speaking to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, silent Stan wasn’t so silent had this to say:
He admires “rational thought” in club ownership “so that they become real industries and real businesses. I have to have some reality involved. If you want to win championships then you would never get involved”
For the full context of this quote read Amy Lawrence’s excellent piece in the Guardian.
From the day Kroenke came to Arsenal I have been and remain deeply concerned by his purchase of the club. Given the current state of things, I remain so.
There are glaring issues with the club. From the deals off the pitch to the product on the pitch the club needs some a major refocusing. As it stands though we have no idea what Stan plans for this club.
In the past we talked about how the club under Peter Hill-Wood lacked direction -especially after the departure of key players. Well it’s been how many years since Stan took control and we still have no idea what his vision for this club is. Well, that’s not entirely true. If you read that quote the way I did you can fathom a guess what his vision is – a pocket-lining venture.
With the current state of affairs, and our slide into oblivion we still remain without so much as a statement of intent from our new owner in the first full year of his tenure, we still appear rudderless and adrift while other teams immediately around us have a clear vision of where they are going and what they are doing.
For those who thought Stan’s leadership would bring some new approach to running the club, it is likely they did not know much about the man they affectionately call ‘silent Stan’. A lot of people pointed to his successful ownership of US sports properties as a hopeful sign he would bring back the winning ways to Arsenal.
As a reminder his company KSE is majority owner of the Los Angeles Louis Rams and of the MLS Colorado Rapids, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. Stan was also a part in one of the 11 bids to purchase the LA Dodgers of Major League Baseball. With all this ownership of clubs and my knowledge of their performance in recent years, I wondered in a piece at I did at the time Stan took control if he could really be an effective owner. Mark Kizzla of the Denver Post seems to concur as he once said this about Stan in relationship to his ownership style:
. . . and simply appearing to be cheap (Stan Kroenke’s Avalanche and Nuggets). Isn’t it fair to question whether Kroenke is simply spread too thin in terms of interest with all the teams he has ownership of?
It seems like a fair question. If he has ownership in all these companies and if he is an active owner – where does his attention lie? He seems to have little interest in beefing up the ailing Rams. The Avalanche Yo-Yo from bottom of their Western conference to around 6th place every other year. The Nuggets always look dangerous but never do too much. The only real winner he has is the Colorado Rapids. But even a closer examination shows that Stan doesn’t care too much for Football. At least that is what his former Rapids (and Stevenage) manager said.
Well, if all this that shocks you now, I ask why?
Stan’s approach is a marked difference to that of Liverpool owner John Henry who also owns MLB’s Boston Red Sox. Henry has been engaged and active even from a distance. Speaking early in the season of his support of his managers, talking about the plans for the team and providing vision of where the club is going. Additionally, when it looked like Liverpool were going adrift and off course with the Suarez affair, Henry jumped right in, slapped people around and ordered apologies from all parties.
Look, I don’t expect Stan to be as open and vocal as Henry, a simple statement of intent on what he wants the club to be and the direction he wants the club to take in, would suffice. Take a bloody invested interest in the club you run would Stan.
Let’s be clear, we are rudderless. Our team is continues to turn into something other than its former great self. Yes, the two FA Cups were great but in examination, they seemed nothing more than to paper over the organizational cracks. The perception remains that the status quo in how we are run and operated is fine. It is not. The product on the pitch is crap, the manager seems devoid of any idea on how to fix the rot, the commercial deals we have while slightly improved are a joke, and players are paid far beyond what they deserve for continual under performance. Through it all the one thing that remains the same is the owner and board fleecing the fans while do nothing about the state of the club.
Managerial problems need to be addressed but who’s going to address them? Not Stan. He seems quite content to let Wenger run the team so long as the money keeps coming in. Iva Gazidis doesn’t seem to be addressing the issues or is under any pressure to do so.
It all goes back to a worrying lack of engagement, vision, and direction. At the start of the season there were hopes that our second FA Cup in as many years would launch the club towards renewed greatness. It hasn’t and what’s worse we are having one of our worst runs of form in 11 years.
With an opportunity to press on and win the league via reinforcements for injured players in January, Arsene Wenger sat pat without any downward pressure from Stan or his charges on the board.
As we have failed this season Wenger has been allowed to fall into old patterns of denial without so much as anyone to questions to. If we had an engaged ownership, there should be a call from Stan to basically let Wenger know this is unacceptable, but as we can all guess it’s not very likely not going to happen. In a very good piece (here) from Tim Clark, he believes and I concur that Stan simply hoped that Wenger would work his magic at the club without any involvement from Stan and the pockets would continue to be lined. Well, as we can see without leadership from the top, Wenger’s magic is failing.
Stan was preferred on the board as the eventual majority stakeholder because he was a like-minded individual to the board. They too provided no direction, no vision and were more intent on taking money out of the club than putting it in. To our board and now to our current ownership we are merely a means to an end – lining their pockets.
When Stan took control, I never expected much to change. After many protestations, Peter Hill-Wood and Danny Fiszman’s relented to Stan being on the board. In time it seems they found someone with a similar mindset of how the club should be run. It made sense then when Usmanov made his move that Kroneke was given a seat on the board as opposed to the Russian. I don’t think the board would’ve allowed him a seat on the board if it didn’t in some way think he was going to carry on the traditions of prudence at the club.
That being said of course, much like the debt issue, once in charge Kroneke is free to do as he pleases – to an extent. And he has with two years in a row of charging the club a £3 million consultation fee – one that the club continues to ignore repeated requests for explanation.
The sentiment and goodwill Stan seemed to enjoy from fan groups when he took over is gone. While they were originally encouraged by statements to honour the traditions of the club, meet with fan groups and discuss plans for the club. He has failed to do that unless he feels that the AGM does that (it doesn’t).
Admittedly, as much I felt Stan was wrong for Arsenal, I saw some positives and quietly held out hopes my initial reaction was wrong. However, the negatives are clear to many and are only magnified yet again as the club continues to falter. Any hope that was had for a change of direction is gone. The issues have been made worse and the owner’s inactivity speaks volumes about his real motives.
This article isn’t an attempt to say that Stan is the only issue at Arsenal but as someone who has taken NO ROLE whatsoever since he took control, he and the rest of formaldehyde smelling board are responsible for the operating environment that has allowed this to go on. I firmly believe that nothing will get better at Arsenal without getting in ownership or stewardship with someone who actually knows, likes and wants to participate in this great football club.
I hardly ever start or join ‘actions’ but I am no longer willing to sit by and idly watch the owner let our club keel over like the Titanic. No, I won’t be asking everyone to bring bin bags to the Emirates but I won’t stop writing about Stan’s misguided ownership. Yeah it won’t do much but it will be damn well cathartic for me.
STAN OUT NOW!!!