Stan Kroenke, Arsenal’s American billionaire owner, is expected to announce his plans for the club in tonight’s AGM meeting. The property tycoon is known as ‘Silent Stan’ in the American media and it became clear early on why he had received the nickname. Kroenke is expected to speak because he is due for re-election to the board and it will be the first time that the American has addressed Arsenal’s shareholders since he joined the board in 2008 for fears that to do so would be in contradiction of Takeover Panel rules. Alisher Usmanov, the club’s second largest shareholder is not expected to attend.
On the whole I think Arsenal fans are eager to know what sort of man is now in control of their club. His one and only interview, for The Telegraph, went some way to appeasing fans for whom knowledge of Kroenke was about as readily available as cheery moments in their visit to Old Trafford. However, fans tonight will be hoping to hear the billionaire’s expectations and plans for the coming years.
There is a fine line between acceptance and unanimous resentment for owners of football clubs. When things are going wrong or the club isn’t taking the direction you want it to then usually a scapegoat is in order. The choices: the players, the manager or the owner. Obviously you tend to be more emotionally inclined to the players and the manager, but the owner? Stan has been playing a dangerous game, with Usmanov lurking in the wings the last thing the American needs is for the fans to start crying out for the Uzbek oligarch. When things were getting bad in North London over the summer or indeed at the beginning of the season Stan was probably closer than he realised to the fans turning on him.
People might say: so what if the fans don’t like him, Geordies don’t like Ashley and he’s still there? But the difference is that the power struggle at Arsenal means the remaining fans with shares are in a strong position. Fine, some of them may be unwilling to sell but I’d imagine that everyone has their price and both men can afford to pay over the odds for the shares.
The shareholders are likely to want reassurance over a number of things and it will be interesting to see what topics are raised with Kroenke. We all know that he is becoming more and more immersed in Arsene Wenger’s fan club. That much is obvious: to a prospective owner Wenger must be ideal, minimum input but still achieves relative success.
The ticket hikes for this season are almost definitely going to be on the agenda with fans demanding at least some visible results for this, or on-field performances to support their extra outgoings.
Investment in the January transfer window will also be likely to come up. Whilst Arsenal fans may have been pleased to see their side sign so many players in the summer most will not forget the fact that they still brought in a lot more money than they spent. I should also imagine that there would be questions as to the disorganised nature of Arsenal’s last minute signings. Particularly when they knew all summer that those players were going to be sold.
Beyond anything else though Arsenal fans will simply be looking for their owner to reassure them. To reassure them that he understands what it is to be owner of Arsenal, that he understands that they are underperforming, and that he has a plan to turn the club’s fortunes around.
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