Kroenke fights back amid open warfare at Arsenal
Owner and his son insist that they want what's best for the Gunners, as fans call for change
The son of Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has spoken of the family’s commitment to the club in the face of growing concern among fans that the American owners are mismanaging the Gunners.
On Monday an open letter from 14 supporters groups was published, in which Arsenal fans told Kroenke they felt marginalised and demanded that the US billionaire reinvigorate the club. “As Arsenal fans we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade,” ran the letter. “When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares the club had just competed in a first Champions League final. Twelve years on, Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running.”
In response, Josh Kroenke has issued a statement in which he said: “While we understand, appreciate, and agree with concerns about our club failing to achieve our goal of qualifying for the 2019-20 Champions League, we respectfully disagree it is at a crossroads and things need to change because so much change has already occurred.”
Claiming that recent appointments such as Raul Sanllehi as Head of Football and Edu as technical director represent the start of a “modern infrastructure, designed to move us forward”, Kroenke asked the fans for patience.
“This will take time to play out,” he said. “For us, the most important thing to achieve was not simply change for the sake of it, but to ensure we put the right people in the right roles to work together in a positive environment to achieve our stated goal of winning silverware both domestically and in Europe.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Sun, Kroenke launched a passioned defence of his family’s involvement in Arsenal. “It absolutely hurts when the fans question my passion,” he said. “Of course it’s hard to take and it does hit you when [you] wake up at four in the morning to read a letter like this. But I’m not in this business to make friends. I’m in it to win while respecting the values and traditions of Arsenal Football Club. The fans have every right to their opinion, but whether that’s good or bad we’re going to do the same thing to continue working hard for the club.”
Paying lip service to the club’s “values” and “traditions” are unlikely to placate Arsenal fans, who see a side in decline. As the open letter highlighted, not only are they losers on the pitch but off it there is a “lack of strategy” in the transfer policy and the Emirates has become a “soulless place” – a damning indictment of how Arsenal’s fortunes have declined in the last decade.
An online petition calling for “meaningful action” from the Kroenkes to arrest the club’s decline was launched to coincide with the open letter. By Wednesday morning it had nearly 95,000 signatures.