Kroenke Sports Enterprises have no intention of selling Arsenal and will cover the cost of the club’s aborted attempt to join a European Super League, director Josh Kroenke insisted during a stormy meeting with supporters on Thursday.
The Gunners regularly hold Fans’ Forum events with influential groups throughout the season but Kroenke, son of owner Stan, made a rare appearance via Zoom alongside chief executive Vinai Venkatesham.
Arsenal originally postponed the online gathering on Sunday, hours after news broke that the club were one of six English teams to sign up to a new European competition, but it was rearranged in the last 48 hours as the Super League proposals collapsed.
A significant percentage of supporters have always opposed Kroenke’s ownership ever since he took a majority shareholding in 2011 and the club’s attempts to breakaway have reignited hostility among the fanbase, leading to some speculation the group could look to sell.
However, as quoted by fan representatives in the room, Kroenke quashed those rumours and confirmed his parent company will cover the withdrawal fees arising from their U-turn. Reports suggest these are in the region of £8 million, but Kroenke indicated the figure was lower.
REDaction Gooners, an account run by two Arsenal supporters with representation on the call, tweeted Kroenke saying: “We have big plans to invest, we have plans, we want to be great again, but a long-term model does not support long term high investment. No intention of selling.”
In trying to explain their decision to join the 12 breakaway teams, Kroenke claimed they were trying to safeguard the future of the club amid declining revenues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and four consecutive seasons outside the Champions League.
He said: “We asked ourselves, what is worse: a European Super League or a European Super League without Arsenal?
“We also asked ourselves what do the fans want? The global fan wants Arsenal against Barcelona as often as possible. English fans want to see more big matches, but you also still want your cold nights in Stoke. We got it wrong.
“It was never our intention to harm English football. For football pyramid stability we need to ensure we are maximising revenue but we went about it the wrong way on this occasion.”
Venkatesham also claimed Arsenal were not central figures in the Super League formation, despite multiple sources suggesting the Gunners, Manchester United and Liverpool were heavily influential.
“We are really, really sorry for Arsenal’s part in a difficult week for football. Arsenal were not the authors of this proposal, despite what many think,” Venkatesham said. “With this project the train was leaving the station and we made the decision to join. We made a bad decision, a terrible one.”
However, fans were unconvinced. Akhil Vyas, an Arsenal Supporters’ Trust board member, told Kroenke: “You do not understand English football, you do not interact with fans, you have no clue, English football is clearly not for you, you should leave.”
Peter Hoest, of Arsenal Denmark, told Kroenke: “You said you have betrayed our trust, but let me be very clear, we have never trusted you or KSE.”
A large fan protest using the hashtag #KroenkeOUT is planned outside Emirates Stadium before Friday’s Premier League game against Everton