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Can Stan First.

In two short months Arsenal fans will mark the day that American Stan Kroenke and Kroenke’s company KSE took controlling interest at Arsenal.  In that time can you tell me how many times you’ve seen him at Arsenal? Once, twice maybe?

I look back to last April 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 Wenger would be given a transfer war chest and a new era of Arsenal propserity would begin. Lot’s of people said that – I wasn’t one of them.

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 am more 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 thoough we have no idea what Stan plans for this club. We have talked about the previous board under Peter Hill-Wood not providing the appropriate dirction.

With the current state of affairs, the continual 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 St. Louis Rams and of the MLS Colorado Rapids, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. It is also a part in one of the 11 bids currently sitting before Major League Baseball to purchase the LA Dodgers. 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. TheAvalanche 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. And now from his former Rapids and now Stevenage manager comes word that the owner doesn’t care too much for Football. Well, if 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 manager Kenny Dalglish, 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. In an interest in the club he runs would be nice. Hell, he basically promised at the Q&A this season we would see more of him in London, I guess we didn’t know that it would be in the form of the St. Louis Rams of the NFL visiting London 3 times over the next 3 seasons. Oh joy.

Let’s be clear, we are rudderless. Our team is slowly turning into something other than its former great self.  There seems to be a perception that the satus 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 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.

Last season this team had a collapse of epic proportions in the final 11 matches of the season. It was clear then that changes needed to be made. For the most part they were not and let’s be clear we were the laughing stock of the league when we sold Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and wound up getting nothing in return. Yes, the players we;ve got have been okay but they haven’t been of the calibre this club needs or deserves.Word is that deals for better players were submitted, one was even a done deal but the Cesc deal taking so long scuppered that. If all that is true than the owner needs to step up and beat the heads in of the CEO, the contract negotiators and the manger for letting this happen. He hasn’t. As a matter of fact his silent approach to ownership seems to me to be a case of Nero fiddling whilst Rome burns.. As it stands noone knows exactly what Stan thought of the end of last season or what is going on this season. All we had was Ivan Gazidis (I don’t like him either) trying to placate us all early in the season by telling us all it sucked. Way to catch the clue bus there Ivan. It sucked, we know that Ivan.

What is also very worrying to me the most that the lack of engagment, vision, and direction is effectively letting Wenger off the hook for the issues engulfing the team right now.  At the start of the season we heard from the club that players WILL be coming in. That wasn’t entirely untrue but as I just mentioned the players they have brought in don’t address the issues we have had as as a team. 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 with out 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 kindered to their own 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. There is the issue of Usmanov collecting shares to get to the magic 30%. (His last purchase of 1 share was this past week for £16,500 I believe which basically puts the club value at £1.2 billion)

The sentiment and goodwill Stan seemed to enjoy from fan groups is gone. While they were originally  encouraged by statements to honour the traditions of the club. the lack of direction and involvement has effectively wiped that away.

Admittedly, as much I felt Stan was wrong for Arsenal, I saw some positives and quietly held out hopes my gut reaction was wrong. However, the negatives that were clear to many when he bought the club are only magnified yet again as the club continues to falter. Any hope I think I had hope for a change of direction is gone. The issues have been made worse and the owners 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 nor is he the chief issue 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. There are other issues and over the next week we will look at them. But 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 Bismark. 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.



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