Anyway, what’s caused me to finally stir and sweep the dust from my digits and write something about the club I love is of course the change in ownership. Now before I go on, anyone that remembers my posts of quite a while back hopefully knows that I’m a Londoner that’s been living in California for the last 8 years. This gives me a somewhat odd perspective on things in that, I am a local(ish) fan coming from under 10 miles from the club (albeit in Saaaaf Lahndon – innit), but as I’ve been here in the States for so long I’ve got a very different outlook from that of my fellow countrymen… it’s like a hybrid of die-hard English attitude mixed with the American perspective from having lived here so long and drinking beer at 4am watching matches (too weird for words).
So, why am I waffling on about all this…? Well the truth is that when I heard the news of Kronke’s takeover via text message (while hiking up a mountain near where I live) my heart broke. A mate of mine who’s as religious as me when it comes to watching the news from Blighty had caught wind of the Sky news report and sent me the message. When I got back from the hike, I read up the sky news story myself and knowing the British Press from my 27 years in the country I didn’t actually pay much heed to the news as; Sky, The Sun, The Daily Fail et-al and most NewsNow connected feeds from the country of my birth spout buckets of shite on such a regular basis that’s 99.999999% utter bollocks made up to keep everyone’s thirst for news (the use of that word is an oxymoron in itself) sated.
The next morning, the public announcement was made and I felt numb.
Now – with a day or so of reflection I’ve come to terms with what I can only describe as my ‘loss’, by which I mean the foreign ownership of my Football club. I say ‘my’ because just like you I feel a part of this club… it’s like my family. I have met so many friends and had such good times and bad through watching Arsenal, from watching games back in my yoof at a decent hour to the 4 to 7am kick-off’s down Maggie McGarry’s in San Francisco, home of the Bay Area Gooners where I’ve found a home abroad with so many great friends and great people. The club is mine as much as it is yours if you are a regular reader of this blog and others of its ilk, regardless of where chance has decided you were born.
The main reason for this feeling of loss was because one of the things I loved so much about Arsenal was its stubborn Englishnessness… it was really from another age and run like all English clubs of old used to be. I loved that as a club we were so independent and English, I didn’t care about the foreign players or manager as that’s just part of the modern game. I was and still am a fervent believer in the self sustainability model as in my opinion it was the best way to keep the club competitive while we paid off the stadium. I’ve written countless times about the woes of short term thinking aimed at the “SPEND SPEND SPEND” crowd, much of which causes quite violent reactions & name calling.
The pain of this year’s annual February collapse was dulled with the knowledge that with the clubs debts almost paid off, real quality coming through the Academy and the Grove able to generate fantastic income, added to the old sponsorships only a few years from expiring (barring the stadium name), and Arsenal being able to take control of its own merchandising soon, I truly believed and still do, that we are on the cusp of an era of greatness, one the likes of which will pay back for the trophy-less years of late which is why I’ve always fought those with the ‘buy at all costs’ attitude. Now that era will be governed by an American called Stan Kronke and while I’ll accept that he’s FAR better than the alternative Fat & Orange (©Arseblog), I’m still tinged with sadness at the passing of the old guard.
In order for Non-Brit Gooners to understand why some of us feel this way, it’s necessary to try to understand that being British/English can give you a weird perspective on things which can only be really recognised when you spend a good chunk of time in a different culture – ask any ex-pat of any nation and they’ll tell you the same, it broadens your view on many issues and I believe having everyone in the world spend a few years in different country would really go a big way towards global understanding.
Britain, like any country in the world, is quite introverted as anyone that’s watched Top Gear will know and we have a proud, if somewhat dodgy in places, history. Yes, we were the first to unleash so many bad things upon the world like; Taxation without Representation, Slavery, Piracy and Industrial scale Smog, but we were also the first to abolish/amend those of issues too once the error of our ways was made clear something which I know always gave me great pride, we are a country of innovators. Added to this is knowledge is the big elephant in the room; the old British Empire, which up until World War I was the largest by land mass the world had ever seen (check it yourself if you don’t believe me). All this from a tiny Island off the coast of mainland Europe that is itself fractured into warring parties (I’m counting English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish in this, yes I know Ireland is separate but you can’t look at the history of one without the other) This pride is ingrained in the soul at a young age in Britain, we are after all the only country to have the word ‘Great’ in its official name. Letting go of that greatness is hard and it can come across as arrogance sometimes, something that many of my US friends have told me.
Britain’s major achievements are in the past as seen from this present time in history. The tiny island has given the world; Football, Tennis, Golf, Snooker, Rugby, Cricket etc. but we are distinctly average as a nation at them all. Many of the great mathematicians came from Britain, so too the great writers and poets. We were directly responsible for the industrial revolution, but manufacturing has buggered off to the Far East for the most part as anyone from Detroit will tell you. Most of the gems that are recognised as ‘British’ are owned by others; Jaguar/Land Rover (owned by Indian Tata), Mini (BMW), Rolls Royce (BMW), Bentley (VW), Aston Martin (mostly Middle Eastern), Banks are mostly foreign owned – hell the last bastion of British pride is things like our sports institutions, the BBC and other such icons.
To me, Arsenal was one of those icons… a reminder into the history of not just the sport of football, but the nation itself. With Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and a stack of others already in foreign hands, Arsenal was the last big club not foreign owned.
However, it’s a natural progression of things that in a globalised civilisation such as that which we live in, the old borders and prejudices need to fall and we all need to recognise that as times change you have to change with them or fall behind. Anyone that’s American born is currently undergoing this process as we speak, the US Empire is crumbling and pretty soon the world’s No. 1 Economy, the USA, will be No. 2 to China. You can’t fight the numbers… there are 300+ Million American’s that love to fight internally (just look at the religion & politics) and 1.33 Billion Chinese who more or less read off the same page. You can fight change of that scale any more then knowledge of the Tectonic Plates allows you to prevent earthquakes. Some things are just beyond your control and you have to accept them.
Stan Kronke, if you didn’t already know, owns several US Sports Franchises which he runs very successfully. Under his ownership all have had considerable success in winning titles, barring the Basketball team who have yet to win the NBA’s top prize but are one of a handful that make the playoff’s almost every season. So if Arsenal’s eventual purchase was inevitable, then at least my club is being turned over to someone that knows what they’re doing and at the very least has a track record of success. I’d much prefer this then Arsenal being the plaything of some Billionaire or being seen as a property that can be quickly flipped for a big profit. Mr K seems to be in this for the long run.
Football is no longer a local sport, it’s a global business. Most fans of big clubs never have, and may never get the chance to go to England to watch the Arsenal live, and it’s going to carry on like that. Here in CA you can’t move for Man Utd, Barca and Real wearing footy fans who have never been to the country of their team, Arsenal has to be the same to keep up. So… I must get over my stupid English pride and move on, because at the end of the day I’d be a hypocrite not too.
I’ve lived half my adult life on these shores now and have no plans to move back to the UK as I’ve fallen in love with where I now live, the sheer beauty of Marin (just north of San Francisco) is epic, but with a major city so close I have the best of both worlds. Yeh the earthquakes, trees falling on your house and ongoing powercuts are a pain, but so too was freezing my nuts off waiting for the 53 bus or cramming myself onto the central line tube. This change of ownership is the final shift from the old ways, an evolution and is really nothing but another chapter in the grand history of the club. Just as the move from Plumstead to Highbury was in 1913, so Wikipedia (ahem – history) will show that Arsenal’s ownership change is just a milestone in history. Back when Arsenal shifted across the Thames there must have been riots… the club came from SE18, the Woolwich Arsenal where they made big guns after all, not from N5. This is no different as I see it – it’s history.
I now fervently hope even more so then before that this team can win the league this year – it would be a perfect send off to the last of the old Arsenal ways and a way closing the book to look forward to an Anglo-American future. New Stadium, new infrastructure, new owner, we all have to look forward while being proud of the past. Stan Kronke will not ignore that past, because he can’t even if he wanted too, because that past is US, all of us Gooners that talk about it, wear the 1971 Double retro shirts, talk about Rocky, Wright, Brady and Dixon in the same reverent tones as Henry, Bergkamp, Viera and Pires. My kids will wear Red & White one day, as I’m sure yours will, but mine will not share my accent or direct heritage, but that will not make them any less of a Gooner.
This is the new Arsenal born from the old – and in the same way as I’ll always be proud to say I’m from England, that does not in any way detract from the pride I feel towards my adopted Country the USA. I’m proud of Arsenal’s past, I’ll be proud of its future too.
Victoria Concordia Crescit