Putting that in present tense is a mistake, of course. Stan Kroenke has been the shithead owner of Arsenal FC for a long while now, along with his other teams. Today was perhaps his coup de asshole, though.
There had been something of a glow about Arsenal lately. They just won the FA Cup, beating Manchester City and Chelsea along the way to do it. The win got them into the Europa League for next season, and for the first time since longtime manager Arsene Wenger left, there seemed to be some hope around the club moving forward.
But men like Kroenke live to stamp out any light or optimism from us plebes, and that’s what he did today when the club announced 55 layoffs spread around their marketing, hospitality, and player recruitment departments.
The headline here is that these layoffs will save Arsenal, and Kroenke, no more than $3 million. They just netted $4.7M for winning the FA Cup, and guaranteed themselves tens of millions of dollars by qualifying for the Europa League. It is also important to note that Kroenke and his wife Ann Walton Kroenke, the Walmart heiress, are worth $8.3 billion. That $3M they save is exactly .03% of their worth.
The temptation for some is to look sternly at the salaries of the players, but that’s missing the point. The Arsenal squad already agreed to a 12 percent pay cut for the exact purpose of keeping everyone else in the club in a job. Some are hurling daggers at Mesut Ozil, who refused the pay cut and hasn’t played since. But Ozil, when he refused the cut, said that he thought these cuts would only benefit the owner. Based on the layoffs today, that’s exactly what happened.
Among the layoffs is head of international scouting Francis Cagigao, who is credited with bringing Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin, among others, to the club. It’s curious that scouting is getting gutted by this club in particular, because, of late, their transfer policy has been highly scrutinized. Scrutinized because it appears to be just signing whatever client of super-agent Kia Joorabchian deigns to share with them (hello, David Luiz). This won’t do anything to quell those fears.
Kroenke’s ownership, like his ones with the Rams and Avalanche here in the States, has not exactly been beloved by the Arsenal faithful. Kroenke took full control of the club in August 2018, but has been the largest shareholder since 2011. Under his stewardship. Arsenal have gone from perennial title-contenders to out of the Champions League for four straight seasons. They have fallen behind Liverpool, Man City and United and Chelsea, but the ultimate indignity for Arsenal fans was seeing North London rivals Tottenham surge ahead of them as well.
Kroenke might feel he’s in a hole financially, even if he has no idea what that means to any normal person. The club has always claimed the debt they still owe on construction of Emirates Stadium has been the main obstacle in competing in the transfer market. Depends on how you feel about that, because they owe about $189M on those bonds today. Again...Kroenke is worth $8B. So that stadium debt is 2% of his worth.
Kroenke himself is in debt, because like every other uber-rich asshole in the world he didn’t actually use his money to take sole control of the club. He took out a $663M loan from Deutsche Bank to buy out Alisher Usmanov. Combine the two, and Kroenke has some $900M to pay off. Of course, how the $3M he freed up today by laying off non-playing employees is a great boon to those efforts defies any reasonable explanation.
In their statement detailing the layoffs, Arsenal of course cited the lack of fans that will likely spread into 2021 in the UK, as well as the loss of broadcast revenue. But every club is feeling those pinches, and even though some hinted at furloughs before the season restarted they were shamed back off of those by their fans. It’s highly unlikely that Kroenke has actual shame though, and once again Arsenal have sullied whatever goodwill they’ve built amongst their fans in the past couple weeks.
They also tried to muddy fans’ views of the moves by claiming that the layoffs will help Arsenal with their playing staff, as fans care about their clubs fortunes on the field the most. But again, that’s not fair. Whether they can re-sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a deal that will pay him several hundred thousand dollars a week, or convince Willian to come over, the money saved today won’t really make a difference in such chases. $3M for the year is basically a reserve player, and most every fan with a heart would understand going without a sixth-choice midfielder to keep 55 people in their jobs.