It appears to have gone under the radar in the UK but it looks like Stan Kroenke’s purchase of the St Louis Rams could take years to be approved. That doesn’t sound too good for Arsenal.
Talking to US paper the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Kroenke said he felt “good” about a presentation to NFL owners on his plans to buy the Rams outright. It needs to be discussed by them because, in short, he needs to comply with cross-ownership rules designed to prevent one person from owning too many professional sports ‘franchises’. Ingeniously, it appears he’s going to do this by selling one of his other American franchises to his wife or children (with sophisticated ideas like that, I can see how he made his billions…).
The report – which certainly looks well researched - also adds that “Kroenke doesn't want to be rushed into reaching compliance and wants the league to give him time, perhaps a few years, to make that happen”.
I can’t claim to be an expert in all things financial and elements of the ‘battle for the boardroom’ are beyond me. But what I do know is that uncertainty off the field doesn’t help the team on it.
Arsenal shares and possible takeovers became an issue in April 2007 when Kroenke bought his first set of shares from ITV. That’s now more than three years of question marks and doubts about what the future holds for Arsenal. Since then, of course, we’ve had the surprise and acrimonious departures of David Dein and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, the spectre of Alisher Usmanov arriving on the scene, the appointment of Ivan Gazidis (along with the extra senior staff whose recruitment he has overseen) and Kroenke switching from persona non grata to board member and biggest shareholder.
All of this has added to a sense of uncertainty, a feeling that we are waiting for something to happen to us rather than by us. It must rub off on the coaching and playing staff, let alone supporters. While the footballing talent is the public face of a club, the men in suits also shape its character and define what it represents. I just can’t see a resolution any time soon if Kroenke - who would need to make a compulsory offer for all Arsenal shares if he purchases less than one per cent more of the club – is going to have huge amounts of his wealth tied up with buying the Rams.
Nobody wants a swift takeover that jeopardises the club and loads even more debt onto its balance sheet. But without clarity over who is running things at the top we’ll continue to appear unsure of our ambitions as a business and a club – and that only reinforces the impression that matters on the pitch are lacking direction as well.