Kroenke Out? Why Arsenal fans are about to declare war on billionaire owner

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Arsenal Stan Kroenke GFX
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Gunners fans are set to stage a protest against the club's ownership ahead of Friday night's game against Everton

"We have heard you. The Arsenal Board."

Those were the seven words that closed out the open letter to fans that Arsenal published late on Tuesday evening when announcing they were withdrawing from the Super League project.

Those were also seven words which summed up what Arsenal fans would see as the cowardice of Stan Kroenke.

As the sole owner of Arsenal, his signature should have been put at the end of that letter.

But he hid again behind a wall of silence, just as he did on Thursday night when he left his son, Josh, to face the music during a fiery conference call with infuriated supporters.

"If you hear from me, you are hearing from my father," stated Josh, when quizzed on the absence of Kroenke Senior.

But that did little to quell the unrest. Arsenal fans have grown tired of Kroenke’s absent ownership. His refusal to put his name to the monumental errors that have been made in the past week is seen by many as the final straw.

"He is the architect of this," said Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters' Trust (AST).

"He is the overseas franchise investor who embarrassed and shamed our club and embarrassed English football. Why isn’t his name on the apology?

"This is someone who took over Arsenal 10 years ago making a legal promise to the takeover panel that he would talk with supporters and supporter groups. And how many meetings have there been since then? Not one by Stan Kroenke himself.

"It’s an unacceptable way to run a football club and we must go on and change."

The majority of Arsenal fans were aghast when they first heard the news that their club would be among the 12 founder members of the new Super League.

Stan Kroenke

Sunday night’s announcement was met with widespread fury and that feeling of anger and resentment did not diminish during the farcical 48 hours that followed.

And the confirmation on Tuesday evening that the club, along with the other five English sides involved, would be withdrawing from the proposed competition did little to calm things down.

All it did was shift the landscape somewhat. Rather than focus on the Super League itself, the attention shifted to the man who had tried to lead the club down such an unpopular and ill-conceived route.

‘Kroenke Out’ tweeted Gunners legend Ian Wright, as did thousands of others. Within minutes, those two words were trending across social media.

And the large protest that had been planned to take place outside the Emirates Stadium ahead of Arsenal’s game against Everton on Friday night was swiftly rearranged.

No longer was it an anti-Super League protest. It was now a Kroenke Out protest and the momentum behind that movement has been gathering pace ever since.

"This has all further highlighted that Stan Kroenke is not a fit and proper custodian of our club," Raymond Herlihy of the prominent Arsenal supporters group REDaction told Goal.

"I think we all knew it was coming right from the day he became the majority shareholder. We knew that a European Super League was something he would be looking at and that he would be seeing those dollar signs in abundance.

"He clearly thought everything was moving in the right direction as well. But don’t come between fans and their football team! I think this is one of the major learning points for him in the last couple of days.

"The Super League thing hopefully is now dead and never to be spoken of again, but it further highlights that this is not the right man to be leading our club."

Kroenke has never been a popular figure at Arsenal and Friday night will not be the first time that he has been the target of protests by frustrated supporters.

But since Arsene Wenger left in 2018, the American billionaire has enjoyed a period of relative serenity, with public shows of dissatisfaction of his ownership few and far between.

Stan and Josh Kroenke

But in taking Arsenal to the brink of ripping up the rule book on which football in this country is based, he has stirred up a hornets' nest and could be about to feel the full force of a furious fanbase that is now unified in wanting change.

"We have to keep up all the momentum that has built up in the last couple of days," said Herlihy. "We need all the people who stood up to be counted over the Super League, all the people who got involved and contacted the club, all the people who signed up to the AST and done their bit.

"Getting him out is easier said than done of course and there is a lot of work to do there, but with the AST at the helm and the brains that they’ve got in their organisation, they’ve got some great strategy ideas about how to approach this now.

"There is a massive groundswell of anti-Kroenke feeling and that is only going to continue over the next few weeks. 

"Hopefully he will be left under no illusions that we don’t want him at our club."

The audacity of Kroenke in trying to push through the Super League proposal alongside his fellow billionaire owners is what has enraged the Arsenal supporters so much.

This is a man who has overseen a decade of decline in north London. When he arrived Arsenal were a European heavyweight, now they sit among the also-rans.

And now, with the club starting to lose money for the first time since he took control, he has gone behind everyone’s back in a move to shore up his own financial position.

The apology Arsenal issued on Tuesday night stated that the decision to join the Super League was driven by a desire to protect the club and to support the wider football community through greater solidarity and financial stability.

Arsenal Stan Kroenke Tim Payton Quote GFX

Supporters of Arsenal - and clubs all over Europe - saw right though that. For once, Kroenke's plan backfired.

He has failed to get his own way and revolution could be coming, with Friday night’s protest just the start. 

Supporters' groups of the six English clubs involved in the Super League have been flooded with fans trying to sign up during the past week, with over 1,000 new members joining the AST within just 48 hours.

"The focus must be on long-term change," said Payton. "Fans need to be involved in the ownership structure, but that can only happen with legislative change."

As the Super League fiasco unravelled during the past week, Payton met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who promised the government would launch an urgent review into how the current ownership structure within football could be reformed.

"Stan Kroenke is not fit to own Arsenal Football Club," declared Payton.

"But the decision of what comes next is complex. Even if Kroenke were to leave, it could be out of the frying pan and into the fire.

"That is why the crucial development is the Prime Minister’s commitment to review the ownership structures. The AST wants every Arsenal fan to talk to their MP and submit evidence to this review when it is established.

"We want Arsenal fans to protest in every way possible. Email the club, email your MP, talk to the media, appear on a blog, use social media, mobilise your friends, join the AST. This is multi-layered and protest comes in many forms."

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There is a sense of a growing movement at Arsenal now. 

The battle lines have been drawn and on Friday night the fans are determined that their voices will be heard, despite KSE's insistence that the club will not be sold.

Kroenke Out? Perhaps not just yet. But the calls for change in north London are about to get harder to ignore.