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Arsenal director Josh Kroenke was told by furious fans that the club’s involvement in the botched Super League was a “disgrace” and “cowardly” as the American owners continue to face mounting pressure from supporters.
Kroenke, the son of owner Stan, was angrily asked if the time had come for him to leave English football and was told that it was “clear that you do not know enough about our game” in a feisty call with key fan groups.
Arsenal are bracing for protests outside the Emirates on Friday night, with many supporters expected to voice their fury at the owners ahead of the Premier League match against Everton.
Kroenke appeared at a fans’ forum on Thursday to admit that the club had “got it wrong” by agreeing to join the proposed Super League, which crumbled within days.
His comments are unlikely to have placated the supporters ahead of the match against Everton, though, as he was accused of “patronising” Arsenal fans across the world with one of his responses. He also insisted that the owners had no intention of selling the club.
Akhil Vyas, of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, told Kroenke he was “ashamed” of the club’s decision to join the Super League. “It was a disgrace the way you did it,” Vyas said. “It was cowardly.
“You launched it and did not even justify it. It’s clear that you don’t know enough about our game, you don’t know enough about our club. Have you ever thought that English football is not for you, and that it is time to leave it? Because clearly you are not in touch with fans.”
At the start of the call, Kroenke told supporters: “The first question we asked ourselves was: what is worse, a Super League or a Super League without Arsenal? That was a very tough one for us to weigh. We decided a Super League without Arsenal was the worst of both those answers.
“The second question we asked ourselves was: what do the fans want? I think the global fan wants to see Arsenal versus Barcelona as much as possible. I think the European fan wants to see more big matches between top clubs.
“I think from an English fan’s perspective, and this is what was so educating for me, they want to see more big matches. But as one Chelsea supporter wrote on a sign that I saw online the other day, you still want your cold nights in Stoke.”
Tim Payton, also of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, described the comment as “patronising to Arsenal fans across the world”.
Kroenke insisted that Kroenke Sports & Entertainment would cover the costs of withdrawing from the Super League as he promised he would try to build a “bridge” between the owners and the disillusioned supporters.
Meanwhile Vinai Venkatesham, the club’s chief executive, insisted that Arsenal were “categorically not” the driving force behind the Super League proposals.
“What was clear to us was that the train was leaving the station,” said Venkatesham, who has called other Premier League executives to apologise. “This project was about to be launched with some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“We needed to assess if this launch happened without us, and this tournament came to fruition without us, what that would mean for the club. Due to concerns about us being left behind, we made the decision to join.
“It became immediately apparent that we made not only a bad decision but a terrible one. We immediately got out as quickly as we possibly could. Now we need to say sorry to lots of people.”
Later in the call, another fan told Kroenke that the supporters of the club had “never” trusted the owners, who took a controlling stake in 2011 and then assumed full control in 2018.
Kroenke replied: “I am well aware that we never really had trust and what teeny bit of hope there was among a small fan group that KSE would take it forward, I know that has been shredded as well. That is why I am here, to start building that bridge.”
Then asked when they want to sell Arsenal, he replied: “I am not willing to answer that question because we have no intention of selling.”
Kroenke argued that the existing model of football across Europe is not “sustainable” over the long term. “If you are always going to be recruiting the next person to pump tens of hundreds of millions into a club, that is not a sustainable operation across Europe anywhere,” he said.
He also raised concerns about the sport’s governance, calling for more “transparency” in the game.
Earlier in the day, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had said the supporter reaction to the proposed Super League represented the “strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world”.