An alliance formed by a band of influential Arsenal supporters calling for “better leadership” of the club insist they have not launched another campaign calling for owner Stan Kroenke to leave but for changes to be made at the highest level.
A total of 16 signatories from across supporters’ organisations, fanzines and blogs published a statement on Monday morning hitting out at Kroenke’s “passive ownership” as the Gunners prepare for a third season without Champions League football.
Under a heading of ‘#WeCareDoYou’, the make-up of the Arsenal board, “soulless” atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium and a lack of transfer strategy are all addressed to Kroenke.
“As Arsenal fans we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade,” the statement begins.
“When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares the club had just competed in a first Champions League final.
“Twelve years on, Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running.”
Kroenke began purchasing shares in April 2007, just under a year after Arsenal had lost 2-1 to Barcelona in the Champions League.
Through his company, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, he continued to increase his stake until he became majority shareholder in 2009 – going on to take sole ownership of the club in August 2018, a move which included the 71-year-old using his right to buy all remaining shares, many of which were small investments held by supporters.
“Off the pitch, fans have never felt more marginalised, less listened to or valued,” the joint statement continued.
“This was sadly illustrated when Stan Kroenke forcibly bought out the last remaining supporter-shareholders without even a word of appreciation of their custodianship role in the club.”
There have been ‘Kroenke Out’ campaigns launched in the past but Dave Seager, founder of Gunners Town, one of the 16 signatories on the statement, insists this is not a rehash of such movements.
“The message is not ‘Kroenke out’,” Seager told PA.
“The message is ‘Kroenke change’. We know it is unlikely that he would sell up but we are just asking the club to change, to see what we are saying and respond.”
When asked why those involved had decided to collaborate on the ‘WeCareDoYou’ campaign, which also has a Twitter account and a petition signed by over 20,000 people since Monday morning, Seager explained it was time for the independent voices to unite.
“I think for a time now there have been voices that have asked for the club to respond and co-operate with supporters and fan groups,” he added.
“A lot of the time this has been disparate but in forming this alliance and speaking as a group of like-minded supporters’ trusts, blogs and websites who together amass a huge following it makes the voice a coherent one, with a clearer message.
“The online petition is attracting signatures all the time and will form part of this message.
“Moving forward there may be other ways the group looks to garner a response from the club and from Kroenke but at this time I couldn’t tell you what they are.”
The signatories on the message, which also includes the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust amongst others, calls on Kroenke to show “meaningful action” to “reinvigorate” the club.
“It feels as though Arsenal is at a crossroads, Things need to change,” the statement reads.
“What all of us as signatories to this statement want to see is meaningful action by Stan Kroenke to reinvigorate our football club.
“This requires work to strengthen the club’s board and football executive and once again make Arsenal a place where fans have a real sense of belonging.”
The statement goes on to claim Kroenke is using Arsenal as an “investment vehicle” with “passive ownership”.
As well as calling for an “independently-minded” director to be appointed to the board and for an “uncoordinated” approach to transfers and contracts to be addressed, the statement also wants to see the “soulless” Emirates Stadium reinvigorated.
PA has contacted Arsenal and KSE for comment.