Stan Kroenke Arsenal takeover - comment

13 April 2011 07:22
Golden age: Herbert Chapman's bust in the marble hall at Highbury in 1953

As if the Germans taking over the motor car company which symbolised all that was distinguished about Britain was not humiliating enough, the Rolls-Royce of our football clubs have been flogged to the Yanks.

The final bastion has fallen.

Arsenal FC, the name synonymous for more than a century with the old-fashioned values and Corinthian spirit upon which British sportsmanship was founded, have gone the way of all the other major clubs in the money-crazed Premier League.

Who, now, can stand against the accelerating descent of the people's game into a cesspit of foul-mouthed rage, craven cheating, grasping commercialism and vulgar celebrity?

American Stan Kroenke may be more benign than the other foreign billionaires who have led the gold rush into the Premier League but Monday's sale of Arsenal proves even the grand dame of the game has her price.

The last of the great family football clubs have sold their soul. Behind the pleas of good intentions and promises of respect for all the noble traditions which have enshrined Arsenal among our great institutions, the base reality is there to be seen in the size of the cheques.

Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith untied the family knot which had bound her and predecessors to Arsenal for decades in return for more than ?116million.

Danny Fiszman, the Swiss-based diamond merchant whose serious illness ignited this fire sale, banks over ?117m for his chunk of one of English football's crown jewels.

Bad health: Fiszman (left), pictured here in 2001, sold his stake to Kroenke for more than ?117m

Kroenke, a multi-sports franchise entrepreneur in the United States, forked out those eye-watering sums at ?11,750 a share in the club in which he had invested an equally tidy sum to join the board of directors.

Herbert Chapman, the puritanical secretary-manager who led Arsenal to their first two top-flight titles in a sepia age of integrity and respect, and Alex James, the genius in baggy shorts who helped him do it, will be turning in their graves.

Whether the same will be true of Denis Hill-Wood, the principled patriarch of a more modern era, perhaps his son Peter, who succeeded him as chairman, can tell us.

Both are Old Etonians but I doubt if Hill-Wood the elder would have approved of his beloved football club being part of this country's fire sale to foreign interests.

New man in charge: Kroenke (left) sealed a controlling stake at the Emirates with a ?300m swoop on Monday

Peter the paid piper is pocketing almost ?5m to add to his earlier sale of shares to David Dein, who may return from banishment now his friend Kroenke is in charge.

This Hill-Wood is being kept on, officially as chairman but in reality with the intention of reassuring supporters the dignified ethos of the club will survive unchanged. It will require more than that to convince us that dear old Arsenal are not falling into the same hands as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, to name but four of half the upper echelon now controlled by Americans, Russians and Middle East potentates.

Kroenke has been around the club for a couple of years, professes affection for all that the name means and vows not to superimpose on the Emirates the debts with which his fellow Americans have burdened Old Trafford and Anfield.

But it would be naive to assume he is in this as a charitable donor. Nor is there anything in his track record with a collection of major league and minor sports operations back home to support such an assumption.

The same business imperatives will apply. Arsenal are now in the same position as their leading rivals. If any fail badly - on or off the pitch - perish the thought of what will become of them when the suits from overseas decide to cut their losses and run.

At least Kroenke has already passed the right-and-proper person test for footballclub directorship - for what this is worth - and appears to have pre-empted a rival takeover bid from another Russian oligarch.

JaguarLand Rover and British Steel are now Indian-owned. Britain's airports belong to Spain, while the French supply our electricity and gas. Cadbury's chocolates are in sticky American hands - and now, with Arsenal gone, the cream of England's football clubs have been lapped up.

Up for sale: Kroenke's controlling stake has cleared the way for a full takeover which would make him the fifth US owner of a Premier League club

Kroenke hints at funds for manager Arsene Wenger to buy big-named players who may end the club's trophy drought but even he will have to realise Kroenke has not only upped the share price but raised the ante on the pitch.

That will not worry lovers of Arsenal - and the game - as much as the risk to all that this most quintessential of English football clubs represent. The obsession born of the cloth-cap age has sold its soul to the striped suits.

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 Explore more:People: Alex James, Nina Bracewell-Smith, Danny Fiszman, David Dein Places: Liverpool, Spain, United Kingdom, Middle East

Source: Daily_Mail