Arsenal fans aim to stop Stan Kroenke takeover
All-out ownership by the American not best for club, says supporters' trust
If Arsenal didn't already have enough on their plate, what with their dramatic slump in form and the stark reality of a sixth successive season without silverware, the Gunners are now facing a rebellion from within.
The Arsenal Supporters' Trust [AST] has sent letters to all the club's shareholders asking them to turn down Stan Kroenke's offer to buy their shares. The move comes after the trust met to discuss how to counter the American tycoon's offer to pay shareholders £11,750 for each remaining share in a bid to complete a takeover of the club.
Kroenke Sports Enterprise holds a 63 per cent stake in Arsenal after agreeing a deal last month to purchase the shares of the late Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith. However, with Russian millionaire Alisher Usmanov refusing to sell Kroenke his 27 per cent stake, the AST is urging its members to follow his example to prevent Kroenke gaining the 75 per cent he requires to initiate a comprehensive capital restructuring of the Gunners.
The letter sent to 1,500 shareholders says: "The AST believes that Arsenal is stronger when supporters are represented in its ownership structure. This arrangement means we can ask questions at an AGM and scrutinise the official report and accounts, something the AST has gained a reputation for doing with clarity and expertise.
"We also think that having supporters involved in the ownership helps to give the club a real sense of 'belonging' and acts as a check and reminder to those that run the club that its most important asset is its supporters. The AST has established a role as a watchdog of the club and there are numerous examples of where we have influenced policy and also ensured that the views of fans are listened to."
Shareholders have until May 27 to decide whether to accept Kroenke's offer. with many already waiting with interest to see if the American fulfils his pledge to meet with the AST to discuss the future of the club. In addition, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis is scheduled to have a question and answer session with supporters in the close season, and one of the pressing issues will be ticket prices.
As reported by The First Post last week, Arsenal have announced a 6.5 per cent increase in season ticket prices for 2011/12 - the cheapest season ticket rising by £58 to £951 - even though Gazidis was unable to give an assurance that the rise would result in more money being available to spend on strengthening the Gunners' fragile squad.
"I share your concerns that ordinary fans are being priced out of live football," Gazidis said in a letter to the AST. "This is bad for the continued health of the game and is driven primarily by escalating and ultimately unsustainable levels of spending on transfer fees and salaries."