If Arsene Wenger has been, for Arsenal fans, a black-and-white figure, then Stan Kroenke has always gravitated towards grey. How much do we actually know about him?
Now news about the American’s bid to buy out Usmanov’s stake in the club seem to cause major concern for everyone who loves the club. Should Kroenke gain total control over Arsenal, he will have the power to make the club a private business. How will that affect Arsenal – a club with traditions?
Maybe a look at the case of the Los Angeles Rams will shed some light on the intentions of the American businessman.
Kroenke’s sports enterprise journey started in 1993 when he bought 30% of the NFL club Rams to help it finance a move to St Louis. He increased his stakes to 40% in 1997 and became the majority owner in 2010.
Then there was the situation with the Rams’ move from St Louis to Los Angeles which rings a few bells. When Kroenke increased his bid at the Rams to almost 100% in 2010, he promised the club’s fans: “I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can do to keep the Rams in St Louis.”
Three years later, the decision to collaborate with the local administration to build a new top-tier NFL stadium in St Louis to accommodate the Rams served as a testament to that statement. But in 2015, Kroenke scrapped all plans about the stadium and chose to move the whole club to Los Angeles instead.
The motivation: California could offer a better commercial soil. Hardly anyone could argue with the decision from a financial point of view: the club almost doubled in value to $2.9 billion following the news of the relocation. But there were a couple of problems.
The city of St Louis had used about $144 million of its taxpayers’ money to build a stadium there, only to see the Rams move elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, the outrage of the St Louis administration and community who were torn apart from their club and were left with paying for a stadium that was never going to be used by Kroenke’s club.
The Rams are now nomads – moving from ground to ground until their new Los Angeles stadium is completed in 2020.
At the same time, almost in full contrast to the increase in the value of the club on the stock market, the Rams form on the pitch dropped. They have failed on all occasions to replicate a winning ratio since 2003.
True, they have never been world-beaters, but apart from one Super Bowl triumph in 2000 with Kroenke as a minority owner, they have little to brag about.
Things have been going badly at the club with thinning attendance and regular player sellouts. And this is just the Rams.
Kroenke also owns the football club Colorado Rapids and the lacrosse club Colorado Mammoths, on top of indirectly owning – via his wife Ann Kroenke – the basketball club Denver Nuggets and the ice hockey club Colorado Avalanche.
A disturbing pattern is easily observed in all teams under his ownership: one of mediocrity, commercially oriented dealings in the transfer market and disregard for club traditions and supporters.
Is this what awaits Arsenal too?
We don’t need Rams 2. We need Arsenal 2.0.