London (AFP) – Arsenal’s long-serving manager Arsene Wenger received the unequivocal support on Thursday of majority shareholder Stan Kroenke who declared he is doing a “great job”.
But that did not stop other shareholders from criticising the club’s board during Arsenal’s annual general meeting at the north London club’s Emirates Stadium home ground.
They voted against resolutions to re-elect chairman Chips Keswick and Josh Kroenke — Stan’s son — to the Gunners’ board.
The votes at the AGM, however, did not succeed given Stan Kroenke had already used his 67 percent stake to back the re-appointment of the duo.
Some 200 shareholders turned up in person — meaning plenty were left standing at the start of the AGM as not enough chairs had been provided — to hear from Wenger, Keswick and chief executive Ivan Gazidis.
Wenger came under unprecedented pressure last season as Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League and many fans voiced their desire for him to leave after 21 years in the job.
– ‘Strong as ever’ –
However, the 68-year-old Frenchman ended up signing a new two-year contract after Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final, with the uncertainty over his future — much of which Wenger encouraged himself — given as one reason for a dramatic mid-season slump in the club’s Premier League form.
Arsenal have not been crowned champions of England since 2004 and Wenger, observing Thursday’s AGM votes, said: “I dedicate 99 percent of my lifetime trying to make you happy. Looking at today, that is not easy. My determination is as strong as ever.”
Earlier, Kewsick defended a payment of £2.6 million ($3.4 million, 2.9 million euros) to Gazidis despite Arsenal’s failure to reach the Champions League after finishing fifth in last season’s Premier League.
The payment included a bonus of £919,000 but Keswick, addressing shareholders at the AGM, said: “Ivan is doing a fantastic and first-class job leading the development of this club across every aspect of its operations and is representing it in the Premier League, the European Club Association and UEFA level.”
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust had urged shareholders to vote against the re-elections to the board and it took an hour for Thursday’s ballot to be included.
– Wenger ‘the right guy’ –
Unhappy fans have given Kroenke the unflattering nickname of ‘Silent Stan’ because of his supposed lack of communication.
The American sports entrepreneur has also been accused of being solely concerned with Arsenal’s profitability rather than pursuing major honours as the Premier League and Champions League, with the Gunners yet to lift the European Cup.
But Kroenke insisted Thursday that Wenger was still the man to give Arsenal fans the success they craved.
“An easy answer is to do something,” he told the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror.
“It’s harder not to do something. We have dealt with this a lot in different organisations and we just think that Arsene is doing a great job and he’s the right guy.
“I think he is more focused than ever. Focused on winning. I really think I do see that,” added Kroenke.
Kroenke, who owns several sports teams including the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, said there was no question of him selling his Arsenal stake.
“We get into these things to try to grow them. You don’t see us selling things. You just don’t. We are committed long-term.
“I love Arsenal, love being involved with Arsenal,” the 70-year-old added. “There’s no finer feeling than going out and winning like we did with the FA Cup.”
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