Arsenal opinion: Gooner fanzine editor gives his views on Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke
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With the uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the club ahead of the Arsenal AGM at the end of this month Gooner fanzine editor Kevin Whitcher shares his views.
Kevin Whitcher: The implications of Alisher Usmanov selling his shareholding to Stan Kroenke do not bear thinking about.
Stan Kroenke has offered Alisher Usmanov £28,000 per share to buy out his interest in Arsenal. So far, the Uzbek oligarch has resisted, and it remains to be seen whether a higher offer will tempt him to cash in. Not that he needs the money. Usmanov can afford to park it and the enmity between himself and Kroenke is a given. Aside from Usmanov’s reported bid to buy out Kroenke earlier this year, there have been two other bids from a separate concern to displace the majority shareholder, the highest of which – valuing the club at £2 billion – did not tempt the American to sell.
The implications of Usmanov selling his stake in the club to Kroenke are straightforward enough. It means that all the small shareholder swill be brought out on a compulsory basis as Kroenke would own too large a percentage for the club to continue as it currently does, with Annual General Meetings and relatively detailed accounts. The club would go private, and with the removal of Usmanov’s blocking stake, the American could do pretty much what he likes. This might include removing significant profits from the club, or leveraging it in the way the Glazers did at Manchester United, loading significant debts onto Arsenal which could dwarf those seen in the move to the Emirates.
It is generally accepted that Kroenke is not particularly interested in doing everything he can to win trophies at Arsenal. “If you want to win championships then you would never get involved,” he said in the spring of 2016, alongside a belief that owners who just pump their own money into football clubs are likely to lose interest and leave. Even back in his native America, it seems that he is happy with his sports teams simply being in money making leagues, rather than credibly attempting to win them. Fans there have learned that his priorities are financial rather than sporting, so you end up with disinterest and a half-full stadium when the recently moved LA Rams play home NFL matches.
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The one ray of hope is that Usmanov is simply entertaining the bids with no intention of selling. He can almost certainly afford to hang onto his shares and continue to prevent Kroenke allowing the club to decline further on the sporting front, and if he is in fact a true Arsenal fan as he claims, hopefully he will either do that or sell to anyone but Kroenke. The danger is that he wants to become involved in a more official capacity at Everton, where he has already pumped money in, albeit indirectly.
So what can Arsenal fans do about it? Certainly, a repeat of the ‘Get Out Of Our Club’ chants against the American heard loud and long at the final home match of last season – ironically against Everton - which confirmed Arsenal’s fifth placed finish, would make media headlines.
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And we know from the MyOutdoorTV outrage of a couple of months back that Kroenke’s organisation does not completely blank negative press.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if Kroenke realises he may have a battle on his hands against supporters – who might organise such things as boycotting club products and matchday purchases, or even try and hit Kroenke through his family ties by not spending at Walmart owned subsidiaries such as Asda, he might think differently about accepting a bid for the club from someone other than Usmanov.
The Gooner’s 30th anniversary edition is out now.