Stan Kroenke has warned Arsenal fans that he doubts they will be able to compete with rival clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City in terms of expenditure, claiming: “If you want to win Championships then you would never get involved.”
The American majority shareholder, who also owns NFL franchise the Los Angeles Rams and the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, has been at the Arsenal helm since 2011, where he took his stake in the club to 66.64 per cent.
Kroenke has earned opprobrium from Arsenal fans for the way in which the club has been run. The Gunners have cash of nearly £160million which could be available to invest in players, however last summer passed with Arsene Wenger spending only £10m on Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
In the same window Manchester City spent nearly £150m on the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi, whilst Chelsea invested £62m in eight players.
These two sides have won six Premier League titles since Arsenal last led the top flight in 2004 but Kroenke warned he would not support mass spending to get his side back up the table.
Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston he said: “For me, being an individual owner, I have to have some sort of reality involved.
“If you want to win championships then you would never get involved. I think the best owners in sports are the guys that sort of watch both sides a bit. If you don’t have a good business then you can’t really afford to go out and get the best players unless you just want to rely on other sources of income.
“Over there [in the Premier League] it was sort of like ‘well, we’ve got guys from the Middle East, the oil price is over $100, they can spend anything they want’.
“But the problem I saw with all of that; those people can lose interest. It doesn’t mean that they will, but I sort of threw that out there: ‘What happens when the Middle Eastern family, this thing’s costing a lot of money and they decide to go home?’ I said what really happens in those situations is the fans get hurt because the players get picked up and paid if they’re good, the front office gets other jobs.”
Kroenke’s comments had come before Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup by London rivals Watford at home on Sunday, with Quique Sanchez FLores’ Hornets winning 2-1 at the Emirates.
The Arsenal owner is currently in the process of moving his Rams franchise from St Louis to Los Angeles, where they last played in 1994 before defecting to Missouri.
By contrast Kroenke noted that fans in the Premier League were willing to travel similar, if not greater distances to watch their team. The 68-year-old noted that such remarkable displays of customer loyalty ensured that plenty of revenue could be generated, with Arsenal already charging the most in Europe for their premium season tickets.
“What did I learn specifically [from England]? You learn very quickly what that brand means,” said Kroenke.
“We have a gentleman who comes to Arsenal games, he flies his helicopter from South Africa, Cape Town to London quite often. It’s just an example of what a brand can mean, and what we can do in sports.
“We’re all working on that and that’s the big opportunity. Michael Jordan showed it – you can get paid a whole lot more if you can extend your brand. Manchester United showed it. They established benchmarks that people had thought heretofore unattainable, but their brand extension made people want to pay for it.”
Kroenke drew the ire of Arsenal fans last year when club chairman Sir Chips Keswick was forced to defend a £3m payment made to the owner for “strategic and advisory services”.