Kroenke and Arsenal fans at odds
The annual meeting of Arsenal got quite heated after a vigorous exchange of views between majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and the Arsenal Supporters' Trust which represents small shareholders. Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis was forced to intervene to calm things down.
Kroenke, who owns about 67 per cent of the club, refused to give a long-term commitment that he would not take money out of the club through dividend payments. He failed to give a direct answer, stating 'This club is run through the board,. I have always been respectful of that.'
The Arsenal Supporters' Trust said that one of its principles was that money should not be taken out of the club. They want money reinvested in the club to make it stronger after seven years without a trophy. They told the Financial Times, 'We are very alarmed that Stan Kroenke is refusing to commit to upholding this.'
The Trust also claimed that Kroenke had failed to keep his commitment to meet a fans group set out in his 2011 takeover document. This produced applause from the floor and Arsene Wenger undertook to meet fans at the end of the season. Some interpreted this as a wish on his part to distance himself from the American.
Stung by the accusations from fans, and also annoyed that a scripted question about his goals had not been asked in the meeting, Kroenke later issued a statement saying 'I am ambitious and we all share the same goal. I am involved in sport to win. Everything else is a footnote. I can assure you no one is more ambitious than me.'
No one has ever suggested that Kroenke wanted to run the club down. However, his statement does not rule out dividend payments in the future.
Matters were not made easier by a number of patronising comments from chairman Peter Hill-Wood for whom the term 'out of touch' might well have been invented. When asked about his relationship with the club's second biggest shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, Hill-Wood asked 'Who's that?' prompting laughter. He the ended the meeting by telling fans, 'Thank you for your interest in our affairs.' The fans might well think it is just as much their club.