Arsenal vs West Ham – Who Has The Worst Owners? (I Might Shock You?) by Dan Smith
Okay I know some readers don’t want to read any more articles on Stan Kroenke, but I had already started this article earlier in the week, contacting West Ham fans to garner their opinions.
A year ago I was invited onto a documentary to talk about the pros and cons of Fan Channels on YouTube. It got me watching West Ham Fan TV, which I been following ever since.
They explained fans are frustrated with their current Owners, even protesting outside their ground last Saturday, which is impressive when you consider all games are being played behind closed doors.
They are even more angry that they feel certain parts of the media and the press don’t give the full picture of why the Hammers are against David Sullivan, David Gold and Vice Chairwoman Karen Brady. Leaving other supporters to wonder why they are getting so worked up after one game? The answer is it’;s not one game, but they feel a decade of lies and stagnation. Sound similar?
So I thought what better way to build up this weekend’s London Derby by comparing who has the worst owner.
I have had West Ham Fans argue it’s them, so in a strange way this might end up a pro-Stan Kroenke piece.
I wanted to be (and allow you to be) as unbiased as possible, so found a criteria through Google of what makes a good owner.
Here is my assessment.
1. Willing to Take a Risk – spotting an opportunity in the market and going for it.
Both fans will argue that both clubs were seen as an opportunity in the market, the reason they were picked based on the size of their fanbase.
Stan Kroenke, and to a lesser extent his counterparts, are aware that even if fans are angry with certain decisions, it would take a lot for them not to spend money on their passion. In Arsenal’s case, if 10,000 Gooners decided to not renew their season tickets, there are plenty more on a waiting list. Essentially, it’s called exploiting our love.
Hammers’ Fans have questioned Gold’s and Sullivan’s claims that they are boyhood supporters who grew up in the East End, and feel their purchase was more based on the opportunity to move into the London Stadium, Essentially a free stadium that they can long term make a profit from.
What businessmen would choose to pay to build a new venue, when the council will just hand it over for a very generous repayment schedule, which you pay off with your now increased matchday revenue?
They were hoping that cheap tickets would offset the hurt of leaving Upton Park and moving into a stadium not designed for Football.
Yet long term fans feel West Ham have lost their soul by making home games a tourist destination and marketing decisions such as London being added to their badge
Stan Kroenke has been honest and smart enough to leave those decisions to those who know better, meaning Arsenal have kept links to their history.
Most won’t publicly admit it, but I think most business and women wouldn’t have turned down a free stadium. So Gold/Sullivan are more open to taking risks but also are examples of risks not guaranteeing success. Yet to succeed you have to be willing to fail as you only can learn a lot by failing
Gold/Sullivan 1-0 Kroenke (First goal to the Hammers!)
Another is investing their own money when getting a return is far from guaranteed. Both have often with their actions contradicted their words in terms of their ambitions.
Since joining the board in 2008, Stan Kroenke went along with the promise that a few years of paying off stadium debt would be worth it as it would lead to us challenging the likes of Bayern Munich. That apparently was why Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie were sold, etc and a fraction of that incoming money spent.
West Ham were told leaving the Boleyn Ground would make them capable of challenging for the top 4.
So both fanbases can relate to the pain of leaving a spiritual home, that while making financial sense, their new stadium hasn’t had the same atmosphere (if any).
In reality since having the majority say on decisions (2008), Mr Kroenke’s net Spend In North London is 369 million pound.
Having brought 50 percent of the club in 2010 (but final say and right to buy other shares), Gold/Sullivan’s Net Spend is 275 million.
Of course this sport is a business where returns can’t be guaranteed no matter what you put in, yet you equally can’t stand still. History shows the more you spend, the more you win. Both have been accused of not being prepared to go that extra mile in the short term to make more money long term.
For example if our American owner put his own wealth into the club and Arsenal finished in the top 4, he would get even more money back. The reality is TV offers so much revenue that neither owner seems to care where they finish as they make millions just being in the top flight.
Gold/Sullivan 1-0 Kroenke (Not Scoring Either)
3. Focused on Achieving Goals
Being able to set and then focusing on achieving goals is another important character trait. This includes short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals, plus it includes regularly reviewing progress and making adjustments as required
This would be an example where based purely on business Stan Kroenke is very good at what he does. He’s never hidden from his wish for Arsenal to be a self-sustained model, like other franchises in his portfolio.
Part of being successful is knowing what your good at and what you don’t know. The Kroenke family surround themselves with people they can trust to follow their ethos. First, he was happy to listen to Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis, rightly feeling they had better knowledge of the club (and were easy to hide behind) but has now listened to advisors on how to make Arsenal more of a modern ran club behind the scenes.
He’s not the one who will be insisting we sign two young defenders or will know that Edu has contacts in Brazil, but he’s paying the right people at the moment who are correcting the previous regime’s mistakes.
West Ham on the other hand don’t seem to have direction on or off the pitch. One moment they are hiring David Moyes, then replacing him with Pellegrini because they want to play attractive football, just to then rehire David Moyes?
They are selling their best young talent, overpaying those with name values who are past it. They just seem to be making decisions based on how they feel on that particular day.
Gold/Sullivan 1-1 Kroenke
4. Confident, Enthusiastic, and Passionate
Successful business owners are good at inspiring those around them whether that is clients, employees, business partners, suppliers, or family members. This requires confidence, enthusiasm, and passion.
It is very hard to talk about Stan Kroenke inspiring his employees when he’s just made 55 redundancies, in the process lying to his playing squad who took a pay cut on the basis that they were saving jobs. Yet I don’t think our owner cares about being liked and that’s his prerogative. To be a Billionaire you have to make ruthless decisions and accept it might upset people.
On the other hand, Gold and Sullivan do care about their perception and will often do the media circuit to defend their reign. The irony is, Hammers fans think their owners talk too much while Gooners accuse Kroenke of a lack of communication, hence the Silent Stan nickname.
Gold/Sullivan 2-1 Kroenke
5 – Seek Advice from Experts
Successful business owners know they don’t have all the answers. In addition, even when they do think they are making the right decision, they are open to other opinions. This is why the best business owners regularly seek advice from mentors, financial advisors, accountants, and other experts.
Whether it’s Mr Wenger, Ivan Gazidis or Edu, Stan Kroenke is not just open to advice, it’s his business model.
He pays for a brand and relies on others to run the club daily. He’s never pretended to be knowledgeable about Football or even a fan. To be fair in our 4 FA Cup Wins during his time, he’s never taken any credit for them. It seems like he’s allowing his son to use Arsenal as his apprenticeship and it’s possible Josh might eventually have more of a hands on role.
West Ham Fans wish their owners were like Kroenke in that regard. They feel Gold and Sullivan are too vocal on social media, constantly taking credit when a transfer proves successful. Gold and Sullivan are also accused of not being true fans like they claim, only saying that to sound like they care.
They often point to their record at Birmingham but that is now being used as a stick to, not beat them with, but that suggests at 71 and 84 years old respectively the way they run the club is old school and they need more help to catch up with the modern game.
Could you imagine Stan Kroenke rowing with fans on social media?
David Gold/David Sullivan 2-2 Stan Kroenke
6 – Investment in Marketing
Owners, however, understand the essential role that marketing plays in making a business successful. Therefore, they invest, in good times and in bad.
Another example where Stan Kroenke pays a lot of money to ensure this department is being looked after. While some Gooners feel the club could do more to compete with the likes of Man United in this area given the size of our fanbase, we do enough to make a decent sum of money. Which sums up Silent Stan.
Even outside the Top 4 we have made record deals with the likes of Adidas and have huge social media numbers.
Arsenal have been a lot more successful in knowing what their customers want to see. Products are advertised by British players that kids are most likely to identify with, and there are constantly references to our history. The womens range is worn by an Arsenal player who has a girl next door look.
West Ham have failed to attract this, only concentrating, it seems, on attracting tourism and losing their own supporters in the process.
Unless your emotionally connected, it’s hard to explain how angry Hammers were at the change of their badge. Not just is the design something someone at school could make in 5 minutes, but it makes your selling point the one thing proper West Ham fans are upset about. They hate the London Stadium, but here’s the club putting London on the crest just to attract an audience worldwide. It hasn’t worked.
Brady and Sullivan have a massive input in Marketing, Kroenke doesn’t, but which one is better?
Sullivan / Gold 2-3 Stan Kroenke
7. Able to Focus on What is Important
Business owners have to deal with a lot on a daily basis. Most of these things are periphery, however. The best can cut through this to keep their focus on the things that will have a real and positive impact on their business.
Both clubs can be accused, over the year,s of not being great at understanding what their customers want.
There are numerous examples where if Stan Kroenke took that extra step Arsenal wouldn’t be in this situation.
For me, finishing 8th, your worst finish in 25 years, would be the time to release some funds to help the squad. We can judge in October but at the moment we have to sell to buy while our rivals don’t.
As things stand, he’s the only owner in the top flight not to invest a single penny of his own money into his club. The American might respond too late but at least he eventually will listen to those around him once fans get hostile enough.
He knows when it makes sense from a PR perspective to make changes. For example, many gooners believe in the current set up.
West Ham fans though feel zero change is on the horizon and instead of being appeased, Gold and Sullivan will regularly defend their reign on social media and the likes of Talk Sport.
Leaving Upton Park is what costs them a point though. Taking away a club’s home based on lies, then defending lies with more lies……that’s worse than what you do or don’t do in a transfer window.
Even if he didn’t know he was, Stan Kroenke paid for a statue of Thierry Henry, Bobby Moore’s wasn’t allowed outside London Stadium.
Gold/ Sullivan 2- Kroenke 4
8. – Resilient
Running a business is not easy and dealing with setbacks is part of the day-to-day. Successful business owners need to be resilient to keep believing and keep going.
Covid is the best example of needing your owner to be resilient.
Both clubs have hid behind the Pandemic as an excuse in my opinion. Arsenal, it seems, have to raise funds to buy players, West Ham are the only club in the Prem yet to make a signing this summer.
Don’t get me wrong I am not overestimating the loss of Match Day Revenue, yet these are not the only two clubs who were reliant on that money, or who have a high wage bill.
Spurs for example missed out of the top 4 like us, but can still bring back Bale. Newcastle have spent more. Everton have too. Aston Villa forked out 28 million for a Championship striker.
Of course though resilience isn’t just measured on how much you pay out. During a confusing time for the whole world, one club has a feel-good factor they haven’t had in years, while West Ham is engulfed in negativity.
While the likes of Arteta and his coaching staff are more responsible than Kroenke for the happy mood around our club, again Stan Kroenke puts these people in certain positions to get results.
Gold/Sullivan 2-Kroenke 5
So my scores confirm what we have known for a decade. Arsenal, while not perfect on the pitch, are a fantastically run club.
Stan Kroenke frustrates me with his lack of ambition, but without question he and his Family know how to run a business.
That’s why I wanted to use a template, so I would take my emotion out of my judgements.
If this was purely based on Football, there are so many things Mr Kroenke could do to take the Gunners to our previous level, but as an owner there’s so much more to think about.
David Gold and David Sullivan, for example, care more about their club than Stan Kroenke. They talk more to the media. They make bold promises. They invest their own money. Yet it’s got them in a mess. It’s got their supporters protesting at the start of a season. It’s got their captain tweeting about his concerns. It’s got loyal Hammers worried about the direction of their club.
While it’s noble to be in your seventies and eighties and want to still do what you did 30 years previously, it also can be seen as being sturbborn.
Stan Kroenke on the other hands pays people to make decisions on contracts, marketing, transfers, advertising, etc. He will pay lots of money for his trusted advisers to understand his remit, targets and budgets, and will only be phoned if he’s really needed or something special is going on.
The likes of me would like him to sell simply because I think other Billionaires might have more ambition, but he’s never lied to us in terms of who he is.
He’s never pretended to know all the names of the squad or the Fixture list.
They say Actions speak louder than words. Stan’s actions said all he once cared about was the revenue of qualifying for the Champions League. Then though he got to share a TV contract with 19 other clubs worth billions, so it no longer matters where we finish. Those are his actions which are his words.
Gold and Sullivan say things that don’t happen, which is why they shouldn’t speak at all.
Thanks To the West Ham Fans I spoke to this week for helping me with this article
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