Arsenal fan protest: Anti-Kroenke protesters descend on Emirates Stadium as angry fans send message to owners
Arsenal supporters offered Stan Kroenke the most emphatic statement yet that they wanted him out of the club as a sizeable number of fans gathered at the Emirates Stadium to protest against their owner.
A crowd that appeared to number in the thousands congregated in north London from 6pm UK time onwards to protest against the 73-year-old, whose popularity has dipped even further among fans over recent days. That may not have seemed entirely believable but Arsenal’s brief involvement in the Super League, which they announced their involvement in on Sunday before withdrawing on Tuesday night, has led to further anger aimed at Kroenke.
Supporters gathered in what might be considered significant numbers in light of coronavirus restrictions in the United Kingdom as well as the fact that fans cannot get into the ground to watch the game. A gathering estimated to be around 2,000 is by some way the largest protest at Arsenal game in recent memory, significantly larger than marches to the ground before games in the later seasons of manager Arsene Wenger’s reign in the late 2010s.
The gathering came the day after Kroenke and his son Josh were told to sell the club in a supporter forum event that involved nearly 20 representatives from various fan groups. It was a sign of the chasm that exists between ownership, who bought out other shareholders in 2019, and supporters that Josh acknowledged in the meeting: “I am well aware that we’ve never really had trust, and what teeny bit we had taking forward I know that’s been shredded as well.”
For all the fan furor, the Kroenkes are insistent that they will not sell the club they first invested in in 2007.
Protests and fireworks outside the ground were still going strong as Arsenal began their Premier League game at home to Everton, a match where victory would take the Gunners into eighth. That in itself reflects the recent decline under Kroenke’s stewardship. A side that were once perennial top four contenders at a minimum are now left scrambling to say in the top half of the league, their season riding on the upcoming Europa League semi-final against Villarreal.
The Arsenal squad arrived early to the ground to avoid being caught up in the protest, something which had happened to Chelsea before their match with Brighton on Tuesday as virulent fan opposition helped to bring about the demise of the Super League.
“We hear them [the fans outside], we know what they think but our responsibility is on the pitch and to try and win the match,” manager Mikel Arteta said before the game. “It doesn’t help to have your own fans try and stand out on a match day and say loud and clear they are not happy with something. Win the game and everything is better, that’s how we can contribute.”
Protestors ultimately began to disperse at around 8:30 p.m. local time, thirty minutes after the match started. Meanwhile one prospective successor has thrown his hat into the ring should Kroenke opt to sell up. Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO of music streaming platform Spotify, declared his interest in purchasing the club.
“As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for Arsenal as long as I can remember,” he wrote on Twitter. “If KSE (ownership vehicle Kroenke Sports and Entertainment) would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring.”
Ek has a net worth of $4.7billion according to Forbes though as much of that is the 17 percent stake he holds in Spotify. He would presumably need to either liquidate that holding or find additional investment to reach the price the Kroenkes would likely demand to sell up. The purchase of Alisher Usmanov’s stake in the club in 2019 valued Arsenal at $2.5billion.
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, is another who has not publicly shied away from interest in Arsenal though any statements he makes about purchasing the club tend to indicate a deal is not on the immediate horizon.