MARTIN SAMUEL: If Ek is serious about Arsenal, show Kroenke the money

MARTIN SAMUEL: If Spotify owner Daniel Ek is serious about buying Arsenal, he needs to show Stan Kroenke the money and get the deal done… A vague message on social media carries little credibility

  • Spotify owner Daniel Ek took to Twitter to register his wish to buy Arsenal
  • Arsenal fans want owner Stan Kroenke out after the botched Super League
  • If Ek is serious then a social media post isn’t the correct strategy to show that
  • Forbes calculate Arsenal’s worth at £2.01billion – Ek, they say, is worth £3.37bn 

Anyone who wants to buy Arsenal knows who to speak to. It is not 182,600 random followers on Twitter. It is not Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp. It is not the national newspapers.

If you want to buy Arsenal, get in touch with Stan Kroenke. And any prospective owner who does not can hardly be serious.

‘As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for Arsenal as long as I can remember,’ announced Daniel Ek, owner of Spotify, on Friday. ‘If KSE would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring.’

Spotify owner Daniel Ek has been vocal with his bid to buy Arsenal from Stan Kroenke

Ek took to Twitter on Friday to underline his interest in taking over at Arsenal

And if hats bought football clubs that would be a fine statement. If Kroenke wanted out and all he wished for in return was a nice trilby, this could indeed be a momentous occasion.

Yet what the owners of major football clubs are interested in — and recent events have given us incontrovertible proof of this — is money. Lots and lots of money. So Ek needs to talk money, not hats, if he wants to buy, and he needs to talk it with the person whose club it is to sell.

Forbes calculate Arsenal’s worth at £2.01billion. Ek, they say, is worth £3.37bn, Spotify £38.8bn. Money isn’t the issue. The issue is that Kroenke (right) has displayed no appetite to unload, so Ek has to make a deal happen.

A vague message on social media, advancing a conditional position from the Kroenkes that does not exist, carries little credibility. Even less so now the type of PR spinners that attach themselves to these narratives are claiming Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp are lining up behind Arsenal’s suitor.

This starry triumvirate are in Ek’s team, we hear, and would be part of the new regime. Does this not all seem a little crowd-pleasing to you? Ek doesn’t need their money, and none of the three have enjoyed great success in coaching or management roles. So they are, what? Ambassadors? Cheerleaders?

Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira (L-R) have all been enlisted to aid his bid

The men who own the clubs that constitute England’s Big Six made their moves without fanfare. There is no record of Malcolm Glazer recruiting Sir Bobby Charlton to his cause and running a campaign in the Manchester Evening News before taking charge at Old Trafford; Roman Abramovich did not waste time courting the legends of Chelsea’s past. He showed Ken Bates the money and the deal got done.

Ek is not some soppy old romantic either. Musicians regularly complain about the pay through his streaming service. His stated claim is for Spotify to enable a ‘million creative artists to live off their art’ but a report in Rolling Stone magazine last year suggested close to 3million Spotify performers outside what is termed ‘the top tier’ received roughly £8.62 per month.

And, no, it isn’t the fault of Ek that some artists are more popular than others. But he’s a media mogul who built a revolutionary streaming service that changed his industry. He’s probably not a guy who wants to turn the clock back to 3pm Saturday afternoon kick-offs, local clubs for local people, and Bovril.

There has been a lot of opportunist talk since the Super League collapsed. Baron O’Neill of Gatley — or Jim O’Neill, as he prefers to be known when he is in man-of-the-people mode — wrote a letter to the Glazers with fellow Manchester United fan Sir Paul Marshall demanding the family reduces its share in the club from 75 per cent to 49 per cent, and at the original price of $14 ‘as a gesture of your desire to do things right’.

Lord O’Neill (pictured) and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall have written a letter to Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer for he and his family to sell some of their shares

This, they said, would ‘encourage a broader group of investors to consider ownership in the club’. And if that broader group included, just as an example, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and the co-founder of Marshall Wace LLP, one of Europe’s largest hedge funds, well wouldn’t that be an entirely coincidental bonus?

You may remember O’Neill from his failed 2010 attempt to wrest control from the Glazers with his consortium, the Red Knights. There were between 40 and 60 of them and, put together, they couldn’t get the Americans to budge.

Manchester United was valued at £1.2bn back then, except the Knights wanted to cut that figure by a third. Forbes sets the value now at over £3bn, so no wonder O’Neill and Marshall are so keen on 26 per cent being put on the market at the 2005 cost price.

Of course, there may well be people out there who have the desire and can afford to buy Arsenal or Manchester United. But they won’t be talking about it and chances are, when they do, they won’t sound a whole lot different to the current owners.

Think of Iraq. The people of Iraq were always able to overthrow their rulers. It happened in 1941, again in 1958 and in 1963. Another bloodless coup brought the Ba’ath Party to power in 1968, and eventually its vice-president Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti. And there the power of the people ended.

Once the west allied with Saddam Hussein against Iran, and supplied him with military force, he became so strong that Iraq’s future could no longer be determined by its citizens.

The west maintained his power and only the west could decide when it ended. Football’s the same.

Arsenal supporters want owner Kroenke to leave after his part in the botched Super League

The success of the Premier League has shifted its biggest clubs out of reach of even hugely successful entrepreneurs. It has taken a country with the wealth of Saudi Arabia to afford the first glimmer of hope that Mike Ashley may be succeeded at Newcastle.

And Arsenal is worth seven times Newcastle, Manchester United 10. The billionaires of the Big Six need other billionaires to replace them. Might Ek be one? If he’s serious.

Yet nothing about setting out his strategy on Twitter or the reflected glory of association with famous names suggests he is, right now.

Clueless Kavanagh can’t go on without a biology lesson

Saturday was not the first time human biomechanics appeared to elude Chris Kavanagh. Having shown scant understanding of the follow-through involved in kicking a football a significant distance, it is worth remembering an incident from last season when he took charge of the match between Chelsea and Manchester United.

Kurt Zouma equalised from a corner, but Kavanagh disallowed the goal for a push on Brandon Williams by Cesar Azpilicueta. Replays showed, however, that Azpilicueta had been pushed into him by Fred. 

Chris Kavanagh (centre) courted more controversy after sending off Fabian Balbuena (right)

The official explanation was that Kavanagh felt Fred and Azpilicueta’s contact was natural, but Azpilicueta had both hands out when he went into Williams. 

Yet what is the natural protective position when faced with collision? Hands to break the fall.

Kavanagh believed Azpilicueta should have cushioned the impact with his nose, just as he seems to imagine Fabian Balbuena could have cleared the ball with football’s equivalent of golf’s punch shot.

This is not a good referee.

Where were the ultras when the future of the game was on the line? 

Not every football supporter was against the European Super League.

Comments posted on social media last week reveal each club harbours its lamentable opportunists, even outside the boardroom.

‘I’m actually happy they don’t want dead rubber games against poor teams that qualify for the Champions League,’ sniffed one Tottenham fan. ‘More quality is always better.’ 

For amusement’s sake, here are the last 10 teams to knock Tottenham out of Europe: Dinamo Zagreb, RB Leipzig, Liverpool, Juventus, Gent, Borussia Dortmund, Fiorentina, Benfica and Basle — although that’s nine. The season before that Tottenham failed to emerge from a group comprising the titans of PAOK, Rubin Kazan and Shamrock Rovers. So that’s two exits to Super League opposition in a decade, and eight to the ‘poor’. Spot the consistent weak link in that chain.

Equally, what about the socios and ultras? We hear so much about the fan-owned Spanish clubs and the power of the biggest Italian fan groups but, when it came to it, barely a peep of protest from either. 

Some of Europe’s big clubs didn’t have the fan resistance to the Super League that England got

This is the reason government charters and tighter regulations are a better lock on owners than fans on the board. If the socios really run their clubs, where was the resistance at Real Madrid and Barcelona? If Juventus are so intimidated by the boys on La Curva Sud how would they dare even try this? Once inside the club, fans can be worked on, and worked over. 

 There still remains the idea within the elite that this league could have flown had it been better sold. Fans in the boardroom sounds a great idea, but it only works with independence. What would a lone voice, or the illusion of representation, achieve?   

The silence of the lambs in Europe suggests, ironically, that English supporters were more unified and louder outside the castle wall, where they stood beyond reach and beyond persuasion, and exercised their greatest power: the withdrawal of support, both financial and physical.

Fans, not suits, did for Super League  

One of the more wearing aspects of the Super League fallout was those queuing up to play the only grown-up in the village. Legal experts delivering their hot take on who would win the day in court, former administrators offering a dispassionate view away from what was often termed the ‘hysteria’. 

Yet it was emotion that won the day. The furious reaction of the fans counted for more than hours of legal or corporate analysis. Thank God 

Now MPs have to walk the walk 

On the Sunday of the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton, Nigel Huddleston, the Sports Minister, met a small group of journalists at Wembley Stadium for a briefing. By then, news of the proposed Super League was very much out in the open, but there is no record of any public statement of disapproval from him.

This suggests the Government’s admirable hardline stance only became apparent once it saw the level of public ire and recognised this was a tap-in to an empty net for populism. So maybe they are still unaware of the urgency of the situation. 

Tracey Crouch’s review into football is expected to take months to reach its conclusions. That isn’t good enough. The measures to stop a breakaway league need to be in place now. The rest can fit parliamentary schedules but, on this, there is absolutely no time to waste.

Among the key points going forward is that supporters’ groups remain ready for the next power grab. All should carry a list of the club’s domestic sponsors, names and addresses, and a template letter of protest to be sent to headquarters.

When necessary, these could be given to fans, with instructions on how to make their voices heard by email and post. 

Nothing would put the wind up Dulux quicker, say, than the idea their shiny new arrangement with Tottenham had turned their brand toxic and driven many thousands of potential customers into the arms of Farrow & Ball. Clubs need sponsors; sponsors don’t need aggravation.

Be prepared and football can keep winning.


West Ham have had an excellent season. There remains an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League and, without a run of injuries to key players at the wrong time, it is very possible they would have remained in the top four. 

So quite why manager David Moyes is advocating the addition of Rangers and Celtic to the English league is a mystery. Who would the Glasgow giants present a threat to — not the Big Six, not for a long while.

It would be precisely those clubs like West Ham with ambitions to challenge. Why would Moyes wish for that? 

David Moyes believes Celtic (left) and Rangers (right) would enhance the English game

Novak Djokovic will refuse to say whether he has had the Covid vaccination as the inoculation of players begins.

This can mean only one thing: he hasn’t and he won’t.

With Norwich and Watford promoted and Bournemouth in the play-offs, it will again be argued that parachute payments distort competition in the Championship. 

Never forget, though, that if all three do go straight up it will be the first time in the history of the Premier League that this has happened.

Once in 29 seasons is hardly a trend. 

Bournemouth are looking to join Norwich and Watford by returning to the Premier League

£3m for one night’s work? 

The idea the London Legacy Development Corporation — and therefore, by proxy, you — should spend £3million refitting the London Stadium for one night of athletics this summer is plainly ludicrous. 

The agreement signed with the LLDC by UK Athletics envisaged multiple uses, not one night in front of 20,000 fans at best. The post-Olympic concept for the stadium was a mistake and we should not be held to its flawed logic. The LLDC has offered to pay for alternate venues and one hopes any judge called upon to rule will see sense.

In this of all years, there is no money to waste indulging egos, not even that of Lord Coe.

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