“I would say that if you’re hearing from me you’re hearing from my father. I’ve always said that for years now. When I speak or he speaks you’re usually hearing from both of us. I might not be my father but that’s why I’m here today.” Josh Kroenke told Arsenal supporters at a Fans’ Forum on Thursday.
The clamour for fans to hear from the club’s legal owner Stan Kroenke is understandably, but it remains unlikely that they will never get their wishes granted.
There were a few enlightening moments at the Fans’ Forum. Firstly, Kroenke admitting that “all of our trust was shredded this week” following the Super League fiasco. Secondly, an admission that he will engage more with supporters – although he was hesitant to specify how frequently that would happen. And thirdly, a declaration that he was “excited” for Arsenal’s summer transfer window, with recruitment plans not changing an inch despite the withdrawal from the ESL.
Earlier in the week, #KroenkeOut had become one of the fastest growing Twitter trends in the UK with a high point of 200,000 people posting about it. The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust had lobbied UK government along with other fan clubs, receiving assurances from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that supporter governance would be looked at.
For the first time in decades we witnessed how fans do have an influence over their football club. It should be clear however, from Kroenke’s comments on Thursday that he will continue to look at potential ‘projects’ like the European Super League as he seeks to recoup the losses incurred from the coronavirus pandemic and seeks an improvement on how the football pyramid structure can further benefit the elite teams.
Kroenke was typically business-like when asked questions by passionate supporters on the Microsoft Teams call. He was lambasted by Arsenal Supporters’ Trust board member Akhil Vyas for “not knowing enough about our game” and failing to interact with fans throughout the majority of KSE’s tenure at the club. Young fans’ representative Zag Wagman said he had been “ashamed to be an Arsenal fan” and suggested Kroenke had shown disdain in his abrupt answers to previous questions.
There were moments where Kroenke attempted to share his feelings. He insisted he would do everything to “rebuild the trust” which he late conceded he knew wasn’t there in the first place. And he ended the call by declaring his “love” for the club. Cynics may say it’s an easy word to throw around on a virtual call when your back is against the wall, but others will acknowledge that he had finally engaged with a selection of supporters at the very least.
“I look forward to interacting with you and the other supporters groups going forward because I do love this club,” said Kroenke.
“I know it’s been a crazy week at a lot of levels and we have not represented us or yourselves in a positive manner, both internally and externally.
“But you’re going to be seeing a lot more of myself, we’re going to be interacting a lot more. It’s on myself and the rest of the board to push this club forward and we’re going to be listening to you guys a lot.”
Promises were also made that any costs incurred by the ESL withdrawal would be covered by KSE, but the reality is that Thursday’s meeting exemplified the feelings of thousands of Arsenal fans around the world whether the Super League fiasco happened or not.
This has been a long and gradual decline over the years which finally culminated in the ownership showing their true colours. According to chief executive Vinai Venkatesham, the club didn’t want to miss “the train leaving the station,” with Europe’s most valuable clubs quickly signing up to the breakaway league and putting time constraints on those who were reluctant to join.
For KSE, the situation they’ve overseen this week can only be likened to a runaway train which will now see supporters’ protest outside Emirates Stadium against their ownership. It’s not the first time we’ve seen uproar against the owners, and it won’t be the last. Kroenke reaffirmed on Thursday that his father has no intention of selling the club, but it is certain that it will take more than a Microsoft Teams call to rebuild the trust that has been obliterated in the space of a few days.