Arsenal Need Stan Kroenke to Provide the Leadership It Deserves
Arsenal are at a crossroads. Another year has come and gone and seen the club slip further down the relevancy charts. We’re watching on a daily basis as that which we love most, our club moves along rudderless and without direction. The real danger is that the slide into mediocrity will go further along without it being arrested. This blog has highlighted the issue at the board level, the coaching and the player. What we haven’t done is focused on the owner of this club. Until today.
The Absent Owner
Enos Stanley Kroenke, of the Colorado Kroenkes it’s time for you to become an active leader for this club.
When Stan took control of the team and there was so much hope and desire that Kroenke’s control of the board would bring a change in how the club approached things. The papers and some sections of fans speculated that the club would be given a transfer war chest and a new era of Arsenal prosperity would begin. Lots of people said that – this blog wasn’t one of them.
To be fair, the commercial profile of the club has been enhanced and money is being spent on upgraded players. However, there still seems to be a lack of leadership emanating from Stan’s cloistered office far, far away from Arsenal.
From the day Kroenke came to Arsenal there have concerns about his purchase of the club. Given the current state of things, those concerns only continue to grow. .
Even with the improvements in how the operational side is structured and moving on from Arsene Wenger, there still remain glaring issues with the club. But as it stands, some years on from gaining control of Arsenal, we have no idea what Stan plans for this club.
With the current state of affairs, the continual slide into mediocrity seems well entrenched and acceptable. A few years on from our 3rd FA Cup in 4 years we still remain without so much as a statement of intent from our owner in his long term vision for the club. Short of milking it for the odd £3 million here and there that is. Our product on the pitch remains rudderless as the leadership void deepens, while others we consider “rivals” portray 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. Some might have even gotten excited a couple of years when Sports Illustrated labeled him “the most powerful man in sports.”
All of that (the lack of understanding of his US entities and SI’s misguided proclamation) was based on the following:
- Arsenal – Premier League
- Los Angeles Rams – NFL
- Denver Nuggets – NBA
- Colorado Avalanche – NHL
- Colorado Rapids – MLS
- Colorado Mammoth – National Lacrosse League
- Altitude Sports Entertainment – Regional Sports Network
- The Pepsi Center (home of the Nuggets and Avalanche)
- Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium (home of the Rapids)
Those sports “investments” as well as his real estate endeavors mean that his total net worth puts him at $8.8 billion – number 167 on the Forbes 400 list.
With all his ownership of these clubs and my knowledge of their performance in recent years (see being a US supporter has benefits), I wondered 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? All of his focus seems to be with the Rams since their move to LA and why not, with $2 billion worth of the TV rights and the NFL adamant they have a competitive team in the market, it makes sense. The NHL’s Avalanche and NBA Denver Nuggests yo-yo with being in playoff contention to not.
Does Stan Even Like Football?
And for the MLS Colorado Rapids they are now considered one of the worst run teams in the MLS. Former Rapids and Stevenage manager, Gary Smith, in an interview in 2012 offered this insight into the kind of owner Stan is:
“I think his sport that he enjoys mostly is basketball, and he owns the [Denver] Nuggets, and I think his actual understanding and appreciation of the game and rules [of football] is not necessarily that of maybe owners who have been around for donkey’s years in this country.”
I had no interaction [with Kroenke], if we’re just specific about that period of time, that looking back on I was probably a bit too vocal in the press about and I will have learnt an awful lot from. Like I said, I had a fantastic time there.
“Stan’s involvement, from my knowledge, was negligible. He obviously puts a chief exec [executive] in place to deal with the day-to-day running of that football club, and that individual was my contact and my negotiation point in the future.
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. Who can forget his active involvement in last season’s Suarez transfer saga? Henry jumped right in, slapped people around took control of the situation. The result has been Liverpool have gone from hanging around 6th and 7th place, to fighting for a title and winning the Champion’s League
The expectation isn’t so much about Stan being 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 a fantastic move to letting us know he actually gives a damn.
In one of the club’s Q&A sessions a few years back that we would see more of him in London, we didn’t know that it would be in the form of the Rams of the NFL visiting London 3 times over the 3 seasons. Oh joy.
Let’s be clear, we are rudderless. Our team continues its slide into something other than its former great self. There seems to be a perception (only because any thoughts to the contrary haven’t been vocalized) that the status quo in how we are run and operated is fine. It absolutely is not.
The product on the pitch continues to falter despite the talent (yes we have talented players) on the pitch and the head coach closed out out the season without any clear idea of how to get the players to play with a sense of purpose and urgency. Through all of our ills though, one thing that remains the same – the owner and board fleecing the fans while do nothing about the state of the club.
It’s about Leadership and Vision
Stan’s silent approach to ownership seems to be a case of Nero fiddling whilst Rome burns. As it stands no one knows exactly what Stan thinks of the slide from potential title challengers to oblivion in less than one season.
But what is most concerning is the lack of leadership, vision, action and dialogue that effectively let those running the team off the hook for the way last season ended..
As we continue to stutter and fall no one is being held accountable without so much as anyone in a leadership role questioning how things went finished in both the League and the Europa League final. Something from the owner has to be said and frankly, it needs to be public that last season’s finish was unacceptable.
Stan was preferred on the board as the eventual majority stakeholder because he was a like-minded individual to the board members at that time. To our board and now to our current ownership we are merely a means to an end – increasing the value of the club.
When Stan took control, the expectation was that not much would change. After many protestations, Peter hill-Wood and Danny Fiszman’s relented to Stan being on the board. In time it seems they found a like-minded person who thought much like they did on how a 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.
The sentiment and goodwill Stan seemed to enjoy from fan groups at the start of his tenure all those years ago is long gone. While they were originally encouraged by statements to meet with the supporters groups and honor the traditions of the club – the lack of engagement, the ending of fan share and the couple of years £3 million was charged to the club for “consultancy fees” has wiped that away.
Admittedly, as much it felt Stan was wrong for Arsenal, there were saw some positives and hope existed that everyone’s fears would eventually be proven wrong. However, the negatives that were clear to when he bought into the club are only magnified yet again as the club continues to falter. Any hope for a change of direction is gone. The issues have been made worse and the owner’s inactivity speaks volumes about what his real motives are.
This article isn’t an attempt to say that Stan is the only issue at Arsenal but he IS the chief issue especially as he is someone who has taken NO ROLE whatsoever since he took control and is responsible for the perpetuating the operating environment that has allowed this to go on. There are other issues especially on the pitch but 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.
Stan was wrong in when he told the Guardian that US ownership of these teams is a good thing. It was wrong because the American model of detached ownership is not what football in any of the major footballing countries is about. Even in the current state of the game, ownership needs to be seen. it needs to be seen to give a sense that they give a damn. And even if they are money grubbing blood suckers, they still want what the fans want and that is to win.
It’s cheesy to say “that with great power, comes great responsibility” but given the longevity of these clubs and the stewardship entrusted to current owners, there is a responsibility to give the supporters more than just a bottom line on a ledger sheet. No, this isn’t about Stan spending exorbitant amounts ala, Mansour and Abramovich. It’s about active engagement, wise investment, and looking at Arsenal as more than something than a means to line a pocket.
Today, a group of Arsenal largest blogs, bloggers and Supporter’s groups released a letter calling on Stan Kroenke to be more engaged with the club. This isn’t about money and it’s not about social media influence – it is about the club we love. We understand that getting Stan out of Arsenal is a hard endeavour. What we want then is to get him to provide the leadership we so desperately need and to drive us forward.
If you’d like to follow this movement- check out the hash tag #WeCareDoYou and follow the Arsenal Supporter’s Alliance at @AfcWecaredoyou to find out how you can help lend your voice to this movement.