Unless you happen to live in Denver, it’s not very often that you will see two Stan Kroenke sports teams playing in the same city on the same weekend.
Especially when those teams are the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League and Arsenal of the Barclay’s Premier League.
But that’s just what happened earlier this year in London.
Kroenke is an entrepreneur who has a number of sports holdings.
Arsenal, based in the northern part of London (Highbury Square) is a member of the Barclay’s Premier League and currently holds fourth in the league table.
Kroenke has been the majority shareholder in that club since April of 2011.
And Kroenke has been the Rams’ owner since August of 2010.
During the weekend of Oct. 27-28, both teams were in London on the same weekend.
Arsenal defeated BPL relegation candidate QPR (Queens Park Rangers) by a 1-0 scoreline at Emirates Stadium. The Rams lost at Wembley Stadium the next day to the New England Patriots 45-7.
Both teams are very professionally run. I rate their media relations folks among the best in the game. The Rams have taken care of us since they came to St. Louis. The Arsenal FC communications team was outstanding and had no problems in credentialing a reporter/photographer from the United States.
Everything I’ve ever seen or heard about Kroenke as an individual indicates that he’s a shrewd businessman who is a pretty solid person. In other words, he’s a pretty good dude.
Kroenke has solid people in charge of each team. Jeff Fisher and Arséne Wenger are veterans in the coaching/management field and have strong reputations of developing winning teams.
But, both the Rams and Arsenal have supporters who seem to have their doubts about the direction of their teams.
St. Louis Rams fans wonder whether or not the team will stay in town as a stadium agreement looms within the next few seasons. I know the team is trying to get the best deal possible, but it’s been speculated that the team is using the stadium issue as an excuse to bolt town.
In London, there’s no stadium issue. Emirates Stadium opened in July 2006, and is a 60,000 all-seater with 150 executive boxes, a dramatic rise in seating capacity from the club’s previous home, Highbury (located not far away).
Instead, the issue there seems to be an uneasiness in the club’s direction.
While the English are very fond of Americans, they don’t seem to like them owning their soccer (football) teams. The Americans have ranged from the Glazers, who own Manchester United (and are hated by many of the fans) to American groups which have owned Liverpool, Aston Villa, etc.
During that weekend, Kroenke faced a less-than-friendly board meeting at Arsenal, where he told supporters that his goal is to win trophies.
“The reason I am involved in sport is to win,” Kroenke was quoted by the BBC Oct. 26. “It’s what it’s all about. Everything else is a footnote. I can assure you no-one is more ambitious than me.”
Despite holding third in the league table, there has been frustration.
Arsenal lost Dec. 11 in the League Cup to the aptly named Bradford City Bantams, 3-2 on penalties.
Bradford City belongs to League Two, the fourth tier of English soccer behind the Premier League, Championship and League One.
Throughout that game, the Gunners did everything but score until Thomas Vermaelen headed home the tying goal in the 88th minute. However, the home side ended up winning after the teams remained tied through extra time.
The BBC reported Dec. 13 that Lady Bracewell-Smith, a former club director who sold her shares to Kroenke, tweeted,
“Disappointed would be an understatement! [He] shows he cares very little. Why he wanted to be part of AFC I do not know. It seems that the concern of the Gunners fans is the immediate future. Arsenal is used to winning trophies and being in the hunt for the Premier League title under Wenger.
Heading into last weekend, Arsenal sat fifth in the BPL table (standings) behind its rivals, including hated North London rival Tottenham Hotspur.
And the Gunners, once one of the top few English teams, have been a seller of prime talent
Arsenal is rated the fourth most valuable association football club in the world, something which might not justify the fact they’re not keeping talent right now.
Prior to the start of this season, the team sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United and Alex Song to Barcelona. While those sales represented over £38 million, I believe the fans feel the team should be holding onto players like that instead of selling.
During the 2011-12 season, the team did much the same thing with the sales of Cesc Fabergas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City, which netted the team £60 million. The team made £22.33 million in the transfer market that season.
Arsenal enjoys a more stable place in its league table (standings) than the Rams, but since most European leagues are performance based (the bottom finishers in each league get relegated to the next highest league while top finishers in the lower leagues get promoted to replace them), a foreign concept to many Americans, it’s very important that the team continue to win.
Of course, it’s also important for teams here to win as well. Good teams have an easier time filling the seats, getting better television games, having the chance to make additional revenue in the playoffs, gain prestige to sign better players, etc. But finishing higher in the standings isn’t a stay-or-go type of deal.
While there are a lot of differences between the fans (Rams fans don’t sing at games or buy fish and chips or tea and a pie prior to the game), there are many similarities.
Both sets of supporters want what is best for their team. It might not happen this year or next season, but I believe they’ll get it sooner rather than later.