Arsenal fans’ group calls for honesty and transparency from Stan Kroenke

Promise us you won’t use club income against debt, say Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association

A LEADING Arsenal supporters’ group has called on Stan Kroenke to be honest with Gunners’ fans over his future intentions for the club.

The Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association (AISA) have asked the American billionaire to promise that he will not use income from the club to fund his takeover.

And they have also asked the 63-year-old, who was at Sunday’s game against Liverpool, to work together with the club’s fans and other shareholders to hopefully avoid the kind of tensions that have followed American takeovers at Manchester United and Liverpool in recent years.

“The sale of large tranches of the club’s shares over the last few years has created a good deal of uncertainty amongst supporters,” said a statement from AISA released this week.

“Together with the constant media speculation has had an unsettling effect. The announcement on 11 April marks the start of a new era for Arsenal, and the beginning of the end of that uncertainty.

“It is important that the new era starts off on a positive note, and Arsenal fans are very aware of what has happened at other major football clubs in recent years when changes of ownership have taken place.

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“We therefore believe it is crucial that no debt contracted by KSE (Kroenke Sports Enterprises) and/or by Mr Kroenke personally, be transferred to Arsenal Holdings plc or any subsidiary now or in the future, nor secured against Arsenal revenues.”

While Kroenke put forward the guarantee following last week’s �240m share purchase that he would not follow the route taken by the Glazers at Manchester United and load any debt on to the club, this did not include the possibility of him using future revenues and share dividends to pay off interest or part of his debt.

AST have been quick to realise this, and have also followed the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) in voicing a preference for continued ‘plurality of ownership’ at Arsenal, following the confirmation from the second-largest shareholder, Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings, will not sell their 27 per cent stake.

AST have confirmed they will not be selling the three per cent stake owned by their members, and AISA have encouraged other small stakeholders not to sell either, including the new ‘Fanshare’ members who have purchased fractions of a share under a scheme released last year.

“We generally support and appreciate the expertise of the AST, especially in regards to ownership issues, and strongly endorse their call for all existing shareholders not already legally committed to selling, to maintain ownership of their shares, and we will be contacting our many members who individually own shares,” the statement continued.

“AISA also agrees with the AST that Arsenal FC is too important to be owned by one person or company, and we believe that plurality of ownership by supporters should be seen as a benefit, an advantage, an asset to be nurtured and increased.

“We believe that the continuation of Arsenal Fanshare and a growing equity stake in the club for supporters is important, no matter what developments may occur in the future.”

Usmanov is known to be disappointed at last week’s events, but has reiterated that he wants to keep his stake and is angling for a place on the board now that he is the only other major shareholder apart from Kroenke, who will own 62.9 per cent when his recent purchases are ratified.

Only Kroenke and the existing board members can decide that, but AISA have made it clear that they are hopeful the board, shareholders and supporters’ groups can work together on issues such as ticket prices and, most importantly, to focus on the success of the team.

“AISA has been banging the drum, and will continue to do so, about the need for the club to recognise more fully supporter loyalty and recently presented 10 key proposals on ticket prices and supporter loyalty to the chief executive [Ivan Gazidis]. We hope the new regime will embrace this document and look forward to dialogue on this crucial issue.

“Fans want the leadership of their club to attend matches, to demonstrate a commitment to the health and the long-term future of the club and, most of all, to maximise the opportunities for the club to win trophies at senior level.

“We look forward to working with Stan Kroenke and KSE to maintain, develop and strengthen the voice of supporters within our great club, and we commit ourselves to act in co-operation to achieve the best possible outcomes for the club on and off the field, and to assist the new majority owner to act in the best interests of Arsenal, its supporters and community at all times.”