An Open Letter to Stan Kroenke, on Behalf of Arsenal Fans

https___specials-images.forbesimg.com_dam_imageserve_689066360_960x0.jpgForbes

To Stan Kroenke and his ownership group:

The time has come to put up or shut up, when it comes to your ownership of Arsenal Football Club. Fans have been fed up for years, and now they seem to be at the end of their patience.

For the time that I have been a fan of this club, since the mid-2000s, Arsenal has been on a steady decline, not only in terms of their standing in the Premier League but also generally in the hierarchy of world football. From an entire Premier League season unbeaten in 2003-04 (the legendary “Invincibles”), to former manager Arsene Wenger’s legendary tenure at the helm (7 FA Cup wins, 3 Premier League titles), from legends such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and Patrick Viera, from Champions League participation every year from 1996 to 2017, from a legendary home field of Highbury, from a regarded standing as one of the best clubs in the world… to now.

Now is… heading into a third consecutive year competing in the Europa League instead of the Champions League, an often library-like atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium, now is not having won the Premier League since 2004-05, now is a toxic relationship between the fanbase and club, now is Arsenal being affiliated with being the butt of jokes, a “big club” that is a clear step below other clubs of their size, now is a roster that clearly isn’t ready to compete with those other teams, whether for the Champions League, or for the Premier League. Now is Summer 2019, the second year of new manager Unai Emery’s tenure, and now is the club struggling to find the funds to bring in the players that Emery needs to be successful.

Much of the blame, more than other sports, has to fall on you, Mr. Kroenke. Soccer is a sport that, to a higher extent than others, teams’ success will directly relate to the ownership’s willingness to invest funds into the club- mainly for transfers and to pay weekly wages of the players. Forbes lists Arsenal as the 7th most valuable soccer club in the entire world, at 2.3 BILLION dollars. However, Arsenal seems to stick out like a sore thumb from the other teams around them in this list, in one main way- their willingness, or lack thereof, to spend money to improve the team. For example, the team directly below them in value, Liverpool, have spent 184 million pounds, since the beginning of the 2018 season, on player transfers. And these investments clearly pay off- Liverpool was the champion of the 2019 Champions League. (The Champions League is a competition that is to determine the best soccer club in Europe. Winning this competition is arguably more important than winning the Premier League.) Meanwhile, Arsenal has only spent around 80 million pounds in this same period, and this summer, they have been an embarrassment due to their lack of funds.

The main three players Arsenal is targeting this summer, are Celtic FC left back Kieran Tierney, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, and St. Etienne center back William Saliba.

All three of them seem to be keen on the idea of joining the club, especially Zaha, who was a boyhood Arsenal fan. However, due to Arsenal’s embarrassing lack of money for transfers, which has been reported at 45 million pounds available to be spent this summer, none of these three transfers have been completed yet. Tierney’s price is said to be around 25 million, Saliba around 30 million, and Zaha’s around 80 million. Zaha’s transfer looks unlikely to happen, after Arsenal made a 40 million dollar bid and were rejected. The other two are still up in the air.

The point here is this, Stan Kronke and his ownership group own the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the LA Rams, among other semipro teams. Kroenke himself is worth 8.8 billion dollars. I’m not saying he needs to put hundreds of millions of dollars into the team right now. What I am saying, though, is that he needs to evaluate if he is willing to continue to make the financial investment that it will take to continue to run a team this size. Kroenke is at odds with the fans for the main reason that he often seems very unattached to the team and to the fanbase. He lives in the United States, across the pond from London, where Arsenal is located, and only VERY occasionally makes an appearance at an Arsenal match. He seems much more willing to invest in his teams in America, exemplified by the new stadium his Rams and the LA Chargers are jointly building, which is expected to cost 3 billion dollars.

So, clearly, Kroenke is willing to spend money when he sees fit. This means, to me at least, the question is does the owner care about the club the same way, with the same level of passion, that the fans do. That’s what sports teams are about, paying back fans’ loyalty and love with results, and if the owner’s head isn’t in that space, where he is doing what he’s doing not just for his bottom line, but for the fan base, it might be time for that owner to consider moving on.

Truly yours, and please spend or sell,

Chi Okare

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