Is This the End Of Arsenal’s Grassroots Culture?
Football (or soccer) was founded in England, and few clubs can truly be called “original.” That said, one of the prime candidates for this would be the beloved and much-hated (depending on who you ask) Arsenal Football Club. The team was originally founded on December 1, 1886 by group of munitions workers in the Royal Arsenal complex (hence the name). Since that day, Arsenal has never had a sole owner, instead allowing the club’s fans to help dictate in what direction the club’s focus should go. Over the years, magnates from far and wide have bought massive shares of the club, but the fans have always held a small percentage of ownership. However, this may be about to change.
Enter American businessman Stan Kroenke. Himself a real estate tycoon and married to an heiress to the Walmart fortune, Kroenke owns a number of sports teams, including the Los Angeles Rams (formerly of St. Louis), the Denver Nuggets, and one Arsenal Football Club. Until recently, Kroenke owned a majority share in Arsenal, but he still had to contend with some other owners. However, Kroenke recently convinced co-owner Alisher Usmanov to sell his share to give Kroenke 97% ownership of the club. With that amount of power, he can now force the owners of the remaining 3% to sell, making him the sole owner of the club.
The real question here, however, is what will this do to Arsenal’s fanbase? Well judging by what Kroenke has done with the other sports franchises that he owns, it’s reasonable to suggest that he will do what anyone who loves money does in this position: charge more money. However, for the working-class fanbase that Arsenal has sported for over a century, raising ticket prices is akin to a death knell for attending games. And this is where the classic fanbase may die.
If Arsenal’s true fans don’t go to the matches at the Emirates Stadium anymore, who will support the club. Ask any professional footballer, or any professional athlete in general, and they will all tell you that fan support is key to giving them the proper motivation to perform and compete.
Even as a fan of Manchester United, which means I’m supposed to hate Arsenal, this saddens me greatly, if for no other reason than not being able to enjoy Arsenal-United rivalry matches in the same way as football fans have done for over a century.
So I hope that Kroenke’s takeover doesn’t push away true, red-blooded Arsenal fans, but judging by the way that Stan Kroenke tends to handle business, Arsenal F.C.’s future doesn’t look all too bright.