Several of the London-based sports pages recently ran with a story about Josh Kroenke stating in an interview that it’s “hard to relate to Arsenal fans’ passion.”
Taken on face value some may find this statement insulting and troubling. I, therefore, decided to seek out this interview to truly understand what Kroenke was referring to. After listening to the full discussion, it’s pretty clear that these comments were not said in an inflammatory way as it appears these headlines were intended. Is he learning?
With Kroenke’s Los Angeles Rams playing in the Super Bowl at KSE’s $5bn SoFi Stadium, the Kroenke’s were in the news a lot recently. Josh was a guest on the Apple Podcast Road Trippin’, hosted by Allie Clifton, Channing Frye, & Richard Jefferson.
The full show included discussion about the Rams’ road to the Super Bowl but then turned to KSE’s other franchises. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much time was devoted to Arsenal and Kroenke’s plans for the club.
Josh Kroenke’s Arsenal comments hint that KSE finally are understanding the culture of English football
Kroenke sadly had to explain to the hosts specifics of how the Premier League operates and how an English football club is run. He spoke in detail about Arsene Wenger, the Invincibles and the talent coming out of the Arsenal academy. It’s clear that he has learned, and is continuing to learn, the history of the club and how deep the passion of the fanbase is.
In trying to get across to the podcast hosts the level of Arsenal fans’ commitment to the club, Kroenke said that in his view, the depth of English football fans’ support for their clubs goes “way deeper” than anything he has seen in American sports.
He added that he initially found it “hard to truly relate” to the Gunners supporters’ “passion” for their club.
As an American Arsenal fan, I completely understand what he is talking about. I first learned about the passion of football supporters close to 20 years ago when some ex-pat friends of mine in New York took me to a bar called Nevada Smiths at 7AM on a Saturday to see Arsenal vs. Manchester United. Back then, the only way you could watch Premier League matches was at several Irish pubs in the city. I’ll never forget that experience because that’s when I became a fan. The bar was packed, the fans were singing and the game itself was amazing. It felt as if you were there.
Since then, I’ve been over to see Arsenal in person many times and I totally relate to what Josh is referring to. American sports fans also love their teams, but the level of fan involvement and support for football in the UK can’t be understood unless it’s experienced.
So I get it when Kroenke says:
"“I do listen to our supporters over there, I listen to our fans here [in America] with our teams but the level of passion that is involved in European football, and support that goes into these clubs I d- on’t wanna say it’s deeper than anything we have over here – but it’s way deeper than anything we have over here,” he said.“It’s hard to truly relate as an American or a foreigner heading into the UK the passion that really goes on from the people that support these clubs."
It’s true. A lot of my American friends think I’m crazy and they don’t get why I am dedicated to a team and a league overseas. Kroenke is not dissing Arsenal fans, rather he is praising them for their level of club support after experiencing it. H understands the sovereignty of the game.
He goes on to explain the lessons he learned from the fan protests over the European Super League fiasco.
"“They didn’t want the change,” he added. That was the only thing that mattered that we were going to make changes to the system they love. I understood that. I think part of being a good leader is making unpopular decisions on behalf of the group and part of being a good leader is listening to the group and understanding when to back off. That’s what we did.“Once we had a full understanding of what was going on – very quickly – the right thing to do as a leader was to get out of the process.”"
Kroenke also outlined how he met with and listened to Arsenal supporter groups following the Super League controversy, before going on to confirm KSE’s commitment to Arsenal and insists they desire is and always has been to win.
In the end, actions always speak louder than words, of course, and time will tell just how committed the Kroenke’s are to bringing success to the club. But it does appear as if he is finally beginning to understand. There is still a long way to go but some encouragement should be drawn the way he speaks of Arsenal. It’s different.
In this instance, one of few where he or his dad speak publicly, Josh, it must be said, conducted himself very well.