Make Arsenal Great Again: Stop The Americanization Of Arsenal Football Club

Make Arsenal Great Again: Stop The Americanization Of Arsenal Football Club
Sep 2, 2017

Arsenal Featured

Going to a sporting event in America is very different to what we’re used to in the UK. From a spectator point of view the game of football has remained the same since the football league began in 1888. Sure, billions now watch it around the world, but when you go to a match, you watch two opposing teams work out how to win against the other. That’s pretty much all you get.

Going to live sporting event in America is an “experience.” The mission of a sports “Franchise” is to keep you as stimulated and engrossed for every second by jumbotrons, cheerleaders, fireworks, rock bands, and of course, make sure you are very well fed.

Don’t get me wrong, the experience can be an awesome spectacle, but the meaning of the result is usually diluted by all the extra stuff going on. Baseball and NFL teams do have die-hard fans, but stadiums are being filled with tickets paid for by corporations to schmooze customers and reward employees.

American sports are much fairer than European football. The draft system and salary cap’s even up the field to a huge extent. You can draft a Michael Jordan that will make you great for 10 years, but when he retires you may well suck for at least another 10. There is a sense that it will eventually be your team’s turn to win the Championship (and one win can be marketed for decades. Just talk to someone in Chicago about the 1985 Bears, or in Miami about the 1970’s Dolphins).

As a result, there are sports team all around America that pack their stadiums week in week out, despite being strangely devoid of ambition. The Dallas Cowboys are the richest sports team in the world but they haven’t been close to winning a Superbowl for nearly 25 years. The Cowboys hold the “world’s richest sports team” as a badge of pride, proof of their superiority, even though their performance on the field is hit-and-miss (it’s a bit like Everton being the richest football team in Europe).

This is not to disparage US sports which of course produce incredible drama and quality. But the US have mastered the art of the creating money machines out of their teams in ways that are completely separate to how they perform on the field. And Stan Kroenke is a master of this philosophy.

He owns a list of average sports teams in American, that all make him a lot of money. Last year he moved his NFL team the Rams out of his hometown of St. Louis to LA in a deal that made him, and the rest of the ludicrously rich NFL owners, even richer. He won the Superbowl once with Rams in 1999, and he may win Championships in the future, but their true purpose is not to win but to make money. He has applied a version of this model to Arsenal, and as far as he’s concerned it’s working perfectly.

When Kroenke was enticed to buy a stake in Arsenal, he didn’t see their rich history and legacy. He saw a brand. A brand he could exploit for his own personal wealth. He didn’t see a loyal fan-base, he saw loyal customers. He knew that he could charge the highest ticket prices and still fill the stadium every weekend (today there have reports saying Arsenal intend to increase stadium capacity).

It is true that Arsenal have made big signings, but that’s only because the ‘Arsenal Experience’ needs to be polished and look the part. Transfers are mere business concerns, something to help market the team. Kroenke has taken everything that Arsenal stood for, repackaged it, and created Arsenal Lite. The perfect club for the Premier League tourist.

But it could be that Kroenke’s American experiment is failing. Right now, the club seems to be mired in a crisis. Deadline day was a mess. Many players seem emotionally detached from the club. Having seen their team win the championship in every decade since the 60’s (except this one of course) Arsenal fans are not content to sit in mediocrity for a quarter of a century while the shareholders get richer.

There will be little sympathy from football fans across the country, Arsenal are still in the elite group of six clubs where league and European success is actually attainable. But it doesn’t change the fact that they are squandering their potential by prioritizing profit ahead of ambition. Sorry, that’s not the English way. And it’s definitely not the Arsenal way.

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