Year after year of mediocrity. Never good enough to challenge for the top prizes, never in danger of going out of the division but always disappointing, an unwillingness to invest in top playing staff and an unwillingness to part with a coach who consistently underperforms. Sound familiar? If you’re Stan Kroenke, the majority shareholder of Arsenal, then it should not just sound familiar, it should be music to your ears.
The American businessman has built up something of a sporting empire over the years under the holding company Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, though in truth he could possibly do with dropping the “Entertainment” part of the name. The teams in his roster are the Los Angeles Rams, The Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Mammoth and of course Arsenal.
Would you believe that Arsenal are probably the most successful of those sides? His ice hockey side the Colorado Avalanche finished rock bottom of their division last season, finishing with the lowest points tally of any team in 17 years. His basketball team, the Denver Nuggets have lost more games then they have won for the last four years in a row.
The Rams, Kroenke’s NFL team haven’t had a winning season, and by that we mean won more than half of their games, since 2003. The Colorado Rapids, haven’t won the MLS Cup since 2010 and his lacrosse team, the Mammoths, well actually they’re not too bad but it’s lacrosse so seriously, who cares?
The thing is, Kroenke doesn’t actually care about winning. As far as he’s concerned, that’s not why you own a sports team, in fact he once said, “If you want to win championships then you would never get involved”. For Kroenke it’s all about the bottom line. Getting fans in the door and exploiting them for every last penny is the order of the day. He recognises that sports fans are a different kind of consumer.
Say you had a favourite restaurant. You went there with your friends every weekend and the food was great but then one day a new owner came in, changed the menu, upped the prices, started throwing out rubbish food but kept the name and look of the place. Would you keep going? Every single week? Year after year? Not a hope.
But sports fans are different, they’ll keep going back, shovelling handfuls of overpriced sporting garbage in to their mouths, grumbling, making banners, singing chants and ranting on YouTube (fam), but still handing over ever increasing amounts of their hard earned cash for the pleasure of it all. “You learn very quickly what that brand means” Kroenke has said, speaking about how fans are willing to pay whatever it takes to support their team. #WengerIn or #WengerOut, it doesn’t matter to Kroenke. Not getting relegated? TV Money? Full Stadium? No problem.
The American currently owns just shy of 70% of Arsenal, with Russian business mogul Alisher Usmanov holding most of the rest and there is an interesting power struggle developing. Usmanov, unhappy with Kroenke’s leadership of the club is willing to both sell his share of the club to anyone but Kroenke and to buy Kroenke out.
While results this season have improved after an unsteady start fans should perhaps consider turning those placards and bedsheets around and start writing #KroenkeOut instead of #WengerOut because nothing will change at the Emirates until he steps aside.
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