When Wimbledon FC were moved eighty miles up the road to Milton Keynes back in 2003, fans across England were outraged. Sports teams were supposed to be about community, people supporting their local team, but here was a team being uprooted from their home for profit, it was the antithesis of the spirit behind the game. There was disbelief that the FA could allow people with such dubious motives to run a football club, let alone actually move it. On the other side of the Atlantic, in 2016, fans of the St. Louis Rams felt Wimbledon’s pain. Their club was moved 1,800 miles across the country to Los Angeles. St. Louis lost their sports team, the heart and soul of their community, just so a multi-millionaire could make another couple more bucks. That millionaire: Stan Kroenke.
If not for the construction of the Emirates Stadium, it wouldn’t be out of character for Kroenke to try and relocate Arsenal to Dubai or Hong Kong if he could make a few dollars out of it. Arsenal’s largest shareholder is a big fan of owning sports teams, but he hasn’t done anything to suggest he has the best interests of any of his sporting ventures at heart. Unlike the benevolent owners of the past, who used their wealth to help their local club, Kroenke appears to see sports clubs as a business, a way to make money. Fans are just chumps who keep on buying overpriced tickets and beverages no matter what.
This overarching pursuit of profit is why fourth-place is good enough for Arsene Wenger to earn a new contract year after year, and why he isn’t given the funds to realistically do any better, it’s why Arsenal made an 18 million pound profit this transfer window when all their rivals, and pretty much every single club in the premier league, used the massive windfalls from the latest TV deal to bolster their squad. Many Arsenal fans have spotted the connection between their club’s lack of spending and the large cost of building a new stadium for the now ‘LA Rams’. Whether this is true or not is somewhat missing the point, even if the Rams weren’t building a new stadium, Wenger’s transfer budget would still be limited as much as possible.
It’s also why the people who chant ‘Wenger-out’ at every match, home and away, are misguided. Arsene Wenger isn’t doing a great job by any means, but whoever replaces him will be stuck managing a team where the funds for a realistic title challenge are just not available. A new manager might do better than Wenger, but they won’t suddenly propel this Arsenal team to the title and the Champions’ League final, that would be bad economics.
In fact, with the Premier League becoming wealthier, the ratio of money from the Premier League to the money from Champions’ League appearances is growing, meaning that it could even end up being in owners’ interests to finish mid-table rather than push for the top-four. If that starts to happen then Arsenal could fall down the table fast as their owners fail to invest in the team, adjusting their targets from a top-four finish to a top-half finish. If Arsenal fans want to see a return to the glory days then they need to rewrite their ‘Wenger-out’ signs so that they target the person truly responsible for Arsenal’s recent demise. They need signs saying ‘Kroenke out’.