Arsenal's Kroenke attacks rich owners but backs Glazers

Nov 1, 2011
Bill Mann

Gunners shareholder says sport should not be about 'throwing dollars at the wall'

HE'S KNOWN as 'Silent Stan' but when American tycoon Stan Kroenke does break his silence it's usually with a few choice words. On Monday Kroenke, Arsenal's majority shareholder with a 66 percent stake, visited the club's training ground to address the players on the eve of their crucial Champions League tie against Marseille. Then he gave a rare interview to the British press in which he lavished praise on Arsene Wenger and spoke in warm terms of what the Glazer family had achieved at Manchester United. But Kroenke also had what ESPN said could be seen as a dig at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, and the way their owners go about their business.

Kroenke is not a frequent visitor to the UK but he had the good fortune to be at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to watch Arsenal thrash Chelsea 5-3 and he'll be in the stands this evening as the Gunners host Marseille in the Champions League. Asked what he said to the players in his pep talk, Kroenke replied: "I told them that I'm proud of them, that they had faced adversity but had shown real class and spirit to fight through it. It was a lot of fun to watch that game on Saturday."

But the American reserved his warmest acclaim for the man who has brought the club through their worst start to a season in 50 years: "Arsene Wenger is just an unbelievable manager," said Kroenke. "I think he's a tremendous person and he is just as good as there is. You can't judge a manager on one game or on one stretch of games. You judge him over time... he has been here 15 years and you look at what the club had as assets and revenues back then. It's fantastic. It has been done very responsibly and they have the record for participating in the Champions League for the most consecutive years. For the long-term stability and an approach to excellence, I think that's unsurpassed really."

Kroenke, who back in the States owns the Denver Nuggets basketball team and the St Louis Rams of the NFL, isn't concerned that Arsenal are without a trophy since their 2005 FA Cup win. In praising the club's sustainable business model Kroenke criticised those clubs (such as Chelsea and Manchester City) who are owned by one very wealthy individual.

"You can have people - and we have had them in the States - who will spend a lot," said the American billionaire, reports The Daily Telegraph. "They will do it for a little while and they might have some success. Then the person everyone is relying on gets tired of it or has a financial reversal. You are putting the focus on one person, one resource and is that really in the interests of a long-term situation for a great club?

"I would be much more proud if all our leagues were developed with the idea that you are competing on the basis of intellect, work and effort. Instead of just simply throwing dollars against the wall."

The interview ended with Kroenke, perhaps controversially, defending what the Glazer family had done at Manchester United. Heavily criticised by United fans for running up huge debts since their leveraged takeover in 2005, the Glazers are vilified by many supporters. But Kroenke had a simple question for those opposed to the Americans: "What was so tough about the Glazers' situation? They won. And they have increased revenues by a huge amount. If I was a fan of that club, I would sit there and go, 'Wow.' Because how could you do it any better? That's what I would say."

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