Announcing the appointment, Arsenal Chairman Sir Chips Keswick said: “We are delighted to welcome Josh Kroenke to the Board of Arsenal. He has great experience in running sports organisations and brings extensive knowledge of what is required to succeed as we develop our Club for the future.”
If I was the suspicious type, I might think that Sir Chips actually said nothing of the sort, but some PR guy wrote this and attributed it to him. Josh may have some experience of running sports organisations in the US, but he has none in Europe or the UK. He also has no experience of top level football. Ivan Gazidis was asked at the recent Supporters’ Drinks evening what Josh knew about football, and Mr G replied that he used to play it as a kid. Yes, he really said that.
So if not football knowledge, what does Josh Kroenke bring to the Arsenal Board? Business experience? Some, but nowhere near what the people already on the Board have. Knowledge of UK business? No. Contacts in football? No. Anything that other members of the Board don’t have, other than a longer life expectancy? Not that I can think of.
The Arsenal Board is made up of people whose only experience of British or European football is at Arsenal. You could argue, and some have, that it needs diversity, in the sense of some women or other ethnic groups than ‘Old Etonian’. But what it really needs is an influx of knowledge; knowledge from other clubs. It needs people with experience at the same level elsewhere. In no other business would the Board be so insular and made up of people who all have the same holes in their experience, even if they are not (with the addition of the Kroenkes and Ivan) all from exactly the same background. I’m not saying Arsenal always get it wrong and other clubs get it right, far from it. I don’t want a Ken Bates or Simon Jordan around, but there really is a need for diversity of knowledge and people who will actually add to the sum of knowledge currently present.
Arsenal, despite the best efforts of the billionaires, is still at the moment a public company. That means that as well as having a moral obligation to run the club for fans (ha!), the Board also has a legal obligation to run it for the benefit of all shareholders. And there are still a few hundred of those as well as the two biggest and richest. How is appointing the major shareholder’s son to a Board crying out for new experience a benefit? Josh Kroenke is quoted as saying: “It is an honour to join the Board of Arsenal. This re-affirms our family’s long-term commitment to the club.”
He may have said that, he may not. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the PR message that the move gives us: Stan Kroenke is not going anywhere. He’s bought Arsenal and he’s keeping it long-term. He’s happy to appoint his son to the Board to make the point, even if it adds nothing to how the club functions.
Meanwhile, the second largest shareholder has remained totally silent. Doesn’t Usmanov have a comment about the major shareholder’s son being unilaterally appointed to the Board when he himself can’t get near it? He should have.