#KroenkeOut – Easy To Tweet, Not So Easy To Do
I will be going to the protest tonight at the ground. My anger and disgust are about the way those running the club and the owners have treated fans. Not only during the last week but in the last few years.
Florentino Pérez called us the “legacy fans”. We are the match-going fans. Those that have supported our local clubs since childhood, who would stick with the club through thick and thin. Success and failure, relegation and promotions.
But in the modern era, legacy fans are also in the minority.
Clubs do not care about us. Authorities do not care about us. TV companies do not care about us. Internal ESL documents stressed the need to focus instead on “fans of the future” rather than legacy fans. Fans of the future are those that do not go to games. Do not travel up and down the country. But those that watch on TV and, in the main, live abroad.
Arsenal have 17.3m Twitter followers and just 44,000 thousand season ticket holders. Every decision made in football these days is done for the millions who do not go rather than the thousands that do. To increase revenues, clubs have to focus their time building fan bases abroad. In China, in India, Thailand, America and more. This is usually to the detriment of home-based fans.
For too long, clubs have taken legacy fans as a given; “they will keep turning up no matter what we do”. But this week we showed we have a voice. That despite us being in the minority; we are the most important.
When a club falls on its hard times, both on the pitch and financially, it is the legacy fans that stick by the cub.
The fans of the future will turn their support to one of the 8 other clubs they follow. Meanwhile the buckets will be passed around the terraces and it is us legacy fans sticking our pound notes in to try and save the club. I am going to add my voice alongside other legacy fans. We are the most important people at the club.
What I do not fully agree with is the growing Kroenke Out protest movement. I have said before that Kroenke is not a bad owner. He is also not a good one. Many people seem to think that a good owner is one that pumps millions of pounds into the club to buy players; at the same time those same people also say owners pumping millions of pounds into the club to buy players is what is killing football. For me a good owner ensures he has the right people running the club, and holds them to account.
For too long we have had the wrong people running the clubs – From Ivan to Raul and now Vinai – and the Kroenke’s have failed to hold any of them accountable. Where the Kroenke Out movement does not sit well with me is that Kroenke selling is nearly impossible.
For Kroenke to sell, there must be a buyer, and this brings up multiple problems.
Not many can afford to buy Arsenal
Firstly, not many people can afford to buy Arsenal. In 2018, Kroenke spent £550m to buy Alisher Usmanov’s 30% stake in the club. This would have valued the club at around £1.833bn. I would imagine Kroenke would want an offer in excess of £2.5bn to consider selling. So someone is going to have to be sitting there with £2.5bn burning a hole in the pocket and happy to invest that into buying Arsenal Football Club.
Aliko Dangote is one man who always talks about buying Arsenal – I am of the opinion his comments are just PR. He has a net worth of £8bn. But this is his net worth, much of it tied up in businesses, property and other investments.
Anyone interested in buying Arsenal would likely end up using bank loans to purchase us. They will not be able to purchase us with their own cash.
So how is a deal financed?
One of the biggest issues with the Glazers at Manchester United is the way they financed their takeover. As part of the takeover, the Glazers saddled the club with a large amount of debt. Around £265 million was secured by the club’s assets, with the total amount of debt around £660 million. In Manchester United’s 2019 financial reports, the club’s debt had risen to £511.2 million pounds
Whilst Kroenke has not put anything into the club, he has not taken anything out bar the £3million consultancy fee twice in the mid-10s. Manchester United’s loan repayments are around £60 million per anum. Unlike Arsenal, whose loan repayments are linked to the stadium development, Manchester United’s repayments are purely because of the debt the Glazers saddled the club with when buying.
The Glazers basically used Manchester United’s future profits to buy Manchester United – a common process in management takeovers. And saddling the club with huge debts, the Glazers continue to take dividends out of the club twice a year. The last two on record amounted to around £23million. So not only are they using the club’s money to finance the purchase of the club, they are taking out millions a year.
Kroenke might not be my cup of tea, but he has not saddled the club with any additional debt. With so few men able to buy Arsenal with cash, how many will go down the Glazers route and use the club’s money to pay off the debts associated with buying the club?
Who could actually buy Arsenal?
So we have established that whoever buys Arsenal will have to be amongst the worlds wealthiest people. But who would actually buy Arsenal and would they be “any better” than Stan Kroenke?
724 of the world’s billionaires are American. So we could end up getting rid of one yank and replacing them with another. Only the new one will saddle the club with debt and take millions out of the club in dividends.
China accounts for 626 of the world’s billionaires. Anyone that has ever traded Chinese companies on the stock exchange will know the dangers of dealing with the countries. Things are not always what they seem. In the early 10s, the Chinese Super League began throwing out crazy money to washed-up stars in an attempt of building their league, reminiscent of what happened in America in the 90s.
Back in 2012, Didier Drogba was reportedly paid $300,000 by Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. Whilst on paper it looked a great deal, when it actually came to fulfilling his contract the Chinese club failed and he left with unpaid wages.
A recent takeover attempt of Newcastle United by a Chinese consortium collapsed after the buyer was unable to provide proof of funds to Mike Ashley – Ashley has spoken on numerous occasions of interested buyers not having the money to back up their offers.
You then have the Russian oligarchs and oil-rich Emirs. Do we really want to be owned by a Russian oligarch with questionable history? A Google search of Roman Abramovich or Alisher Usmanov brings up some horrendous stories of how they gained their riches – and the corruption that goes beside it.
We often talk about “class, history, tradition” and the recent actions by Kroenke ripped that up. But fans seem to be willing to disregard that statement when demanding an owner come in and spunk millions of pounds without a care of how those riches were gained.
And oil-rich emirs are no different.
I have spoken numerous times about the rise in sportswashing. Men who run countries or states with horrendous human rights records buying football clubs, or paying to host international events in an attempt to show themselves in a better light. How can I support an Arsenal team owned by a Saudi prince or an Emirati sheikh, whilst they continue to oversee these human rights abuses? I have morals. I do not want these men anywhere near the club.
So whilst Kroenke might not be the best owner, he:
- Has not saddled the club with debt
- Has the money he claims to have
- Earned his money without questionable actions
- Is not involved in human rights abuses
I am not sure a new owner would fulfil all four criteria
Finally, the fans cannot buy Arsenal
“We need a German 50+1 model” is often cited. Whilst the German model is fantastic, it will be impossible for English football to follow. We are too far down the line. If the Government forced Kroenke to sell 50% of Arsenal, he would want £1.25bn to sell that stake. Let’s do the maths.
If that was split between all 44,000 season ticket holders, the cost per share would be £28.4k. If 100,000 people invested, they would still need to fork out £12.5k each. The cost would be £5,000 per share if 250,000 invested. These are crazy numbers as anyone involved in the failed fan share would let you know. It would require 12.5m people paying £100 each to finance the 50% take over. It will not happen.
Looping back to the beginning, I will be there tonight making my voice heard. I just do not think forcing the owner to sell is as easy as some seem to think.