During the past month, there has been a scramble by three American football franchises to move from their current locations to the U.S.’s second largest city, Los Angeles. For those unfamiliar, LA has been without an NFL franchise since the Rams and Raiders left in 1995; however, with a few franchises seemingly not as lucrative as their peers, the league is taking steps to fill a void in their financial portfolio by placing one or two teams in that market. On January 12, league owners will take a vote to accept a maximum of two bids from the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and St. Louis Rams to relocate to the Los Angeles area.
The Rams have as their majority owner Stan Kroenke, a Missouri native who is also the majority shareholder for Arsenal. As part of his relocation bid, the Rams and Kroenke submitted to the NFL a proposal/justification for the relocation. This 29-page document became public this week and the outcry has been, to put it politely, not good.
Kroenke was raised in a small town in Missouri and went to school at the University of Missouri. His full name is Enos Stanley Kroenke, named after two St. Louis Cardinals’ legends. Despite his numerous residences due to his extensive business investments, he raised his family in the state of Missouri. In 2010, he told a local reporter that upon taking ownership of the Rams he would do everything in his power to keep the team in St. Louis: “I’ve been a Missourian for 60 years. People in our state know me. People know I can be trusted. People know I am an honorable guy.”
Remember all of that as you consider what the Rams, and by default Kroenke, wrote in the team’s bid to move to Los Angeles, something he mentioned he would not do in the article quoted above:
· “Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed” is an exact quote from the bid document describing what would happen if a team tried to relocate to St. Louis
· The city “lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an NFL franchise”
· San Diego and Oakland are called more attractive business markets than St. Louis and the application calls St. Louis “struggling”.
St. Louis is economically struggling but has a rich sports history and a devoted sports fanbase, one that has been supportive of a team that under Kroenke has struggled to contend in a league built on parity. While not from the city itself, the fact that he was willing to so thoroughly eviscerate a city in his home state in a chance to move the team to another market is a damning character trait.
What does this mean for Arsenal? As the majority shareholder of the club and with the seeming support of the boardroom, Kroenke is firmly in control of the club’s finance and directors. Without a revered manager in Arsene Wenger, it is curious how much more sway he would have over the direction of the club. As it is, he is exercising his power in small ways. Earlier this season, the club authorized a £3m payment to Kroenke Sports Enterprises for a second consecutive year for consulting, or something rather amorphous that fans never really got an adequate answer for.
While Arsenal likely will never relocate from London, when Arsene Wenger leaves the club there is little to stop Kroenke’s influence from expanding. Arsenal fans could see a Glazer-style debt repayment coming from the club’s coffers, or Vincent Tan-style attempt to reshape the club’s image to make more money in an overseas market. Or, if the desire struck, he could do what he has done with his American sports franchises – invested just enough for them to be competitive but not overspend to truly push them towards titles.
All of this seems unlikely, but “Silent Stan” has screamed out his style to the world. His sports investments are simply that, and whatever can be done to maximize them could be done regardless of past statements, personal affinity, or public opinion. This should make Arsenal fans incredibly concerned about the future of their club.
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