Shop owners: ‘Arsenal decline under Kroenke and Wenger is hurting small businesses outside Emirates Stadium’
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It’s not just Arsenal fans who are despairing at the club’s underachievement. Business owners in the shadow of the Emirates Stadium this week told the Gazette how the team’s poor performances are impacting their matchday takings.
The fans’ perennial fury at the running of the club – from majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to manager Arsene Wenger – is nothing new.
But it has reached new levels in the past few weeks, following a series of embarrassing defeats. Recent home games have been played at a half-empty (not half-full) Emirates Stadium.
Bad weather has been part of it, but shop and pub owners in Highbury and Holloway say it’s part of a long-term malaise.
“The decline of our great club under Kroenke,” tweeted The Gunners Pub in Blackstock Road, “is impacting many of the small businesses around the ground that rely on a vibrant, successful and optimistic AFC.”
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Paul Campbell, co-owner of Holloway Road’s popular pie deli Piebury Corner, agrees.
“The depression within the club has led to a recession outside the club,” he told the Gazette.
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“If Arsene Wenger stays another year, a lot of small independent businesses are going to suffer, because they rely on matchday trade.
“In our Holloway Road shop, we make most of our money on matchdays, and you can say that for all the pubs around the ground. Even before the recent bad weather, our matchday sales were down 20 per cent.”
Paul added: “Apathy is creeping in, big time, and businesses need the fans behind the club. A lot of fans are saying: ‘You know what? I’m not going back into the stadium until Arsene Wenger is gone.’
“The club needs to do the right thing and announce a change in manager at the end of the season, so the fans can give Arsene the send-off he deserves.”
Martin Whelan, landlord of the Tollington Arms in Hornsey Road, said: “It has been very negative since Christmas. It’s a real shame. Those extra couple of signings, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, haven’t done anything.
“The result of the game makes a difference for us. If Arsenal get a good result, everyone’s buzzing. If it’s negative, lots go straight home. I’ve been in the pub game a long time and it’s toxic at the moment.
“On a normal game, we will take a fortnight’s worth of money. But the negativity at the moment is dragging on. I’ve seen the restaurants around the ground and it’s had the same effect. It’s the first time since maybe ’87 that I’ve seen so much apathy.”
It’s not just the food joints and boozers.
Danny Landau owns the The Match Day, an independent Gunners memorabilia and merchandise shop next to the Emirates in Hornsey Road.
“We took a hit on Thursday night [when a poor Arsenal side was easily beaten by Manchester City],” he said. “OK, the weather was bad – but, generally, the feel-good factor has disappeared from the club.
“We’re not getting as many visitors as we used to. The atmosphere has really diminished. We don’t have the same buzz. Not as many fans are sticking around.”
Danny, who also sells his goods online, is hoping it’s just a blip. “Christmas was OK for us – it’s just been the past month where trade has gone down.
“I just hope the visitors keep coming. A lot of our trade is driven by foreign visitors, from places like Norway and Morocco. Hopefully they will still want to fly in.”
The shops will be hoping for a positive result when Arsenal play at AC Milan tonight in the Europa League – the competition that offers Arsenal’s only chance of success this season.