Sports

Arsenal fans protest Super League debacle, blast owner Stan Kroenke

Several hundred Arsenal fans protested outside Emirates Stadium before the team’s English Premier League match against Everton on Friday to call for owner Stan Kroenke to sell the club, which even prompted Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek to express his interest in buying the London club.

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Fans gathered on the stadium’s concourse more than two hours before kickoff to protest American owner Kroenke’s role in the failed Super League project, banging metal screens above the main box office, lighting flares, setting off fireworks and chanting “We want Kroenke out” and “We want our Arsenal back.”

They also hung banners over the edge of the concourse, including ones that read, “Arsenal till I die. Kroenke out,” and “Our club our home. Sell up Stan.”

Arsenal lost the match 1-0 to Everton, keeping the team mired in the middle of the standings.

Fan anger has been brewing since Arsenal and five other Premier League clubs announced on Sunday that they would join a breakaway Super League. And it hasn’t subsided even after Arsenal quit the 12-team Super League project on Tuesday night in the face of a growing public backlash and apologised to fans.

The frustration toward Kroenke led to Swedish tech mogul Ek, reportedly worth $4 billion, to express his interest in buying the team, valued at $2.8 billion according to Forbes.

Kroenke’s son Josh, a director at the club, however, told an Arsenal fans forum on Thursday that Stan Kroenke’s holding company KSE does not plan to sell despite the intense backlash.

In trying to explain their decision to join the ESL proposal, Josh 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.

“I believe we are fit to carry on in our position as custodians of Arsenal. We were put in a very difficult position by forces outside of the club,” Josh Kroenke said in the Thursday forum. “We have the same plans for summer that we had several weeks ago and I’m still excited about those.

“So I might be met with mistrust, I might be met with scepticism, but over time I hope to establish some sort of relationship with our supporter groups and show them that we are capable of taking our club forward.”

Along with Arsenal, Stan Kroenke’s company owns several U.S.-based sports teams, including the Los Angeles Rams, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets.

Speaking ahead of the match against Everton, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told Sky Sports: “We hear [the supporters]. Obviously it doesn’t help when you have your own fans trying to stand out on a match day and saying loud and clear they’re not happy with something. But our job is to win the football match and when that happens, everything is better.”

ESPN London correspondent James Olley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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