(*If he absolutely has to.)
The age-old question of “Will Stan Kroenke put any of his own money into Arsenal?” has taken on new meaning lately, what with the current problem of no money coming into the club from any of the usual sources, while outgoings remain at around £27m a month, including about £16m a month in salary payments to the players. Kroenke is keen to save a bit on outgoings and has persuaded his executives, who are presumably still working full time, to reduce their pay by one third. The players, on the other hand, are not really doing any work but some are resisting a pay cut of just 12.5 per cent. Is this fair? Should the players have to take a cut?
On one hand the club does need to save money. On the other hand why should the players take a cut when the billionaire owner voluntarily gave them contracts and puts no money in himself?
A simple graphic can explain Kroenke’s attitude to putting money into Arsenal:
So while I believe footballers are vastly overpaid, in Arsenal’s case I don’t see that either legally or morally they should necessarily agree to a pay cut yet. The owner has put nothing in and is not suffering any hardship; why should the players have to? In the cases of some other clubs the moral position may be different. If a club does not have a billionaire owner and is largely or wholly owned by supporters, and continuing to pay the players in full will mean redundancies for non-playing staff then the moral position is different. It’s fairer for everyone to take a cut than the players keep all their money and force other people – who are likely to be a lot worse off than them – out of a job.
But Arsenal are not yet in a position where people will need to lose their jobs. They were sitting on enough cash to last several months, even with outgoings of £27m per month. This is a much better position than most Premier League clubs, so the collective will from the League to sort something out will be pretty strong if we get to the end of May with no apparent end in sight to the current situation. Kroenke can sit back and wait for other clubs to force the issue, whether that involves playing behind closed doors or asking broadcasters to stump up in advance or even begging for government handouts. Kroenke won’t be turning any of these down if everyone gets them, but he doesn’t have to be at the front of the protest march because there are many others who will be more desperate.
The Kroenkes do seem to be much more concerned about their public image in the US than in England. Here’s a quote from the Denver Nuggets’ website:
“One of the many consequences of the pandemic is its effect on area businesses of all sizes,” [Josh] Kroenke said. “Many companies – in particular the service industry – are temporarily laying off hard-working employees due to the cancellation of events amid an uncertain future. Our hourly KSE event staff plays an integral role in ensuring our fan experience is first class in every way, and it is with these thoughts in mind that KSE will continue to pay its part-time and hourly employees for the next 30 days. We also have asked our vendors and partners to do the same.”
In the UK, however, Arsenal have been less bothered about any public commitment to those employed by their vendors and partners – the likes of Delaware, who supply many of the casual workers for match days. These people don’t work full time for Arsenal, but go and work at whatever events their employer asks them to. Their income will have been hit, and while only a small part of their income is from Arsenal, the club has not given any public support to them.
But pay cuts, while obviously important to lower-paid workers especially, are a sideshow to the big financial issues in football. Even if all Arsenal players do take a 12.5 per cent cut (which don’t forget they get back if they do their jobs properly and qualify for the Champions League), it will save about £2m a month on a spend of £27m a month. It’s not a major factor, because they still have £25m to find. So let’s go back to the subject of Stan Kroenke putting money into Arsenal.
My graphic above does have a caveat: if Arsenal are in danger of going bust, then Kroenke will put money in to stop that happening. It’s the obvious commonsense thing to do: he’s paid over a billion pounds for an asset that until three months ago was worth close to two billion, so he’s not going to let it go bust so that Ken Bates can have it for a pound. This has led to reports of ‘guarantees’ from Kroenke that have apparently influenced some players into accepting a pay cut, though there’s no reason why those guarantees should have that effect.
The Daily Mail, bastion of top quality journalism, ahem, told us in a bold headline: “Arsenal to receive cash injection from owner Stan Kroenke”.
Kroenke has apparently “guaranteed millions”. How many millions? How will this happen? There must be more detail in the story below the headline…
Yes, you told us that bit in the headline. Go on…
Yes, yes, you said that. What’s the detail? It must be here somewhere. What about these picture captions?
Well I love the glasses Stan, but it’s the same two sentences again. That’s it. That’s all the Mail has. I asked Mail journalist Sami Mokbel on twitter for more detail. No answer. But what’s happened here is that someone in the club has told him Kroenke would put money in to stop Arsenal going bust and he’s got a little confused and tried to turn it into a story. In doing so, he’s realised he has literally no facts – none, zero – so has had to repeat the meaningless headline several times.
Then Julien Laurens popped up on the ESPN website to say:
“With KSE’s support, cost-cutting initiatives and careful cost control, Arsenal are doing what they can to weather this crisis. KSE have provided guarantees around the club’s financial commitments to shore things up.”
Again people have taken this to mean Kroenke is already putting money in. He’s not. He’s just saying he’d do it to stop Arsenal going bust. He wants everyone else to make sacrifices first, but you know what guys, he’ll save your jobs for you if he has to, because he’s that kind of guy. He’ll do that FOR YOU, and saving his billion pound investment is just peripheral, because he’s here to support YOU in your hour of need. What a guy.