Well it’s been a while but I felt compelled to write a blog post.
This was brought on by this tweet from Pedro of Le Grove:
For the record, in Nick Harris’s research Kroenke got a 30% approval rate from Arsenal fans (16th in the PL) while Gold and Sullivan at West Ham got just 15% from their fans (17th).
Anyway, “huge owner-led cash injection”? What does that mean exactly?
Pedro’s tweet led to a discussion of what he meant by ‘huge’ money and what exactly a ‘cash injection’ is.
The problem is that ‘cash injection’ can just mean ‘loan’, and loans usually get interest charged on them, and the capital has to be repaid somewhere along the line.
Some football club owners don’t care about interest and don’t care about loans being repaid. Jack Walker in the 1990s put about £40m into Blackburn Rovers because he wanted his hometown club to win the league. He didn’t want the money back, he just wanted some football glory. Roman Abramovich has famously ‘lent’ about £1.5bn to Chelsea, and he doesn’t want it back either, he says. (He wanted £3bn for the club, though, which suggests that he really thinks Chelsea is actually worth £4.5bn, which is preposterous, so in fact he’ll just get most of his ‘loans’ repaid as part of the purchase price, if that turns out to be the reported £2.5bn.) Abramovich’s motives were far different to Jack Walker’s, and can be summed up by the word ‘sportswashing’.
So what about Kroenke? Is he a Jack Walker-style football-loving glory-hunting sugar daddy or a Roman Abramovich-style sportswasher? Neither. Stan Kroenke does not particularly care about football and he certainly doesn’t give money away. He’s a businessman, first and last. He’s in it for profit. He’s explained this himself in interviews – he’s not in it for sporting glory and he sees nothing wrong with what the Glazers do at Man Utd, ie pile on debt and then take shitloads of cash out of the club. He did start taking undefined ‘fees’ of £3m for a couple of years, just to test the water, but at that time there were still other shareholders and an AGM, so the flak he was getting made him stop.
Kroenke’s position at Arsenal is easier since he became 100% owner after the other sportswasher Alisher Usmanov sold up and cleared off to sponsor Everton, but the financial landscape has changed. The Covid effect meant Arsenal needed to free up cash, so Kroenke paid off the banks who held the stadium debt of £160m-odd and arranged to lend the club the money himself, adding on an extra £30m for the early repayment fees he had to stump up on behalf of the club. Is he charging interest? We don’t know, he won’t tell us. So we can surmise that he probably is – we certainly haven’t heard any Abramovich-style “I don’t want this money back” statements.
But the club love to drop hints that Stan Kroenke is giving Arsenal money by using words like ‘investment’ and ‘support’:
“KSE fully support the manager in the transfer market.”
“We will invest in the team.”
These are meaningless in reality, but lead to journalists writing things like “Kroenke backs Arteta with big funds”, which is equally meaningless but makes some people think Kroenke is giving money away. He’s not. He doesn’t give money away. Never has, probably never will.
But he is prepared to lend Arsenal money and put the club in more debt to ‘buy’ a way back into the Champions League. I’ve previously said that as long as Arsenal stay in the Premier League, that’s probably good enough for Stan because the club’s value is maintained and most of the income arrives whether or not the team is competing as part of the ‘elite’, whether that’s a Big 4, 5 or 6. But Covid made a massive dent in Arsenal’s income while the Champions League money has been getting bigger for the lucky clubs still in it, causing more of a gap between the qualifying clubs and the rest. So Stan wants Arsenal back at the top table from a financial point of view, and he’s making money available (via lending) to support that.
The other aspect is the ‘Super League’, which Stan certainly has not given up on. Arsenal won’t confirm that they’ve extracted themselves from the legal agreements on it and won’t sign the Premier League ‘owners charter’. The big clubs are still making plans to have European qualification based on historical performance and rankings, but Arsenal’s rankings are starting to drop. It would be a shame if Stan didn’t manage to get his club into the elite group anymore because we’d been out of the CL so long. So go ahead Mikel, spend some money and get us back in there.
So in summary:
- Has Stan Kroenke given Arsenal any money? No
- Has he lent Arsenal money? Yes
- Has he ‘injected’ money into the club? Yes, if injected means ‘lent’
- Has he ‘supported the manager in the transfer market’? Yes, if that means letting the manager spend Arsenal’s income and any further money Kroenke has lent Arsenal for this purpose
- Will he want the money back? Yes
- Is he charging interest? Almost certainly
- Will he just add the loans to the balance sheet and forget about them? No, he’s a businessman and he wants to make profit
- Has he fooled people into thinking that the reason he’s lending Arsenal money is because he wants Arsenal to do well? Yes
- Why is he lending Arsenal money? Because he wants to make more money by doing it
- Does he care about Arsenal supporters or their feelings? No
- Does he love money? Yes. Yes he does.