Rory Smith: Silent Stan speaks to reassure fans but discontent rumbles

American owner ends his omerta at Arsenal's AGM but supporters remain disgruntled by a lack of clarity over their club's direction

Of all the items to forget, of all the slips of the mind, it had to be that one. "I appear to have one more resolution," said Peter Hill-Wood, Arsenal's old-money, straw-man chairman, performing a swift about-turn after a surreptitious word from a suited apparatchik. "It is resolution five. All those in favour of re-electing Stan Kroenke to the board?"

Hill-Wood, it is fair to say, was the only person among the 300 in the Emirates Stadium's Woolwich Suite whose thoughts strayed from the moustachioed American seated to his left at any point during Arsenal's hour-long Annual General Meeting yesterday.

This was the moment the club had waited four years to see, four years of gradual accumulation of shares, of winks and nudges and pleas and pontification. This was the moment when Silent Stan would speak.

"Hey," he said, in his grits-and-corn Missouri drawl, laconic, laid-back, far more at ease than his reputation for taciturnity would suggest. "It's great to be here. We just got in a few hours ago. What a wonderful club. I have been asked to say a few things. I'm not quite sure why."

Because this is a club whose fate lies in his hands, of course. Because this is a club desperate to know what its destiny is to be. Because this is a club that has been run with dignity for decades by the well-meaning blue-bloods sitting around him on that raised dais, men and women with morals and stiff upper lips and names like Sir Chips Keswick, but one that now needs dynamism and decisiveness if it is to retain its place among the elite.

It was too much to ask that Kroenke, in his first public utterances at his fourth appearance at an AGM, would outline his plans for his newest sporting acquisition, the asset which he has slowly bought 66 per cent of in recent years. He may have broken his silence, but he is not about to pour out his heart.

That is not to say his appearance did not enhance Arsenal's understanding of its benefactor. He is, he assured listeners, "in it for the long haul".

"We are glad to be here, we love London, so you had better get used to seeing us," he said.

Arsenal "has all the elements you need to have success in this kind of business" he claimed, citing "tremendous management at the top and a tremendous following with the supporters". That means Arsène Wenger retains his full, and fulsome, backing. "He is a wonderful manager on the pitch who makes great decisions in regard to personnel."

So far, so platitudinous. It was only when the position of Hill-Wood was called into question by one interlocutor – demanding his removal and the appointment of former vice-chairman David Dein in his stead – that Kroenke, a man with more than a hint of Ron Burgundy and Donald Sutherland about him, felt moved to speak.

"We are all fans," he said, taking the microphone from the stuttering chairman. "We are going to a certain place and Peter has our full support. Peter, we are with you." Indeed, as Hill-Wood, his composure restored, later confirmed, there is no mood for further change at board level. No representative of Red & White Holdings, the investment vehicle through which the Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov has acquired almost 30 per cent of the club, will be elected to it. There will be no equity injection into the club, despite Usmanov's offer to write a cheque for £100m if the funds are invested in the team.

Instead, as Wenger, Hill-Wood, Kroenke, Keswick and the rest wish, Arsenal will continue with the self-sustaining model which they feel places the club in the best possible position for a future likely to be shaped by Uefa's looming Financial Fair Play guidelines.

Arsenal's brave decision not to cherry-pick only the softest of the pre-selected questions meant that Kroenke (pictured right) now has first-hand experience of the disaffection pulsing through this club.

A demand for Hill-Wood to resign, calls for Dein's reinstatement and complaints over sky-high ticket prices subsidising a minimal net transfer spend and a wage bill enriching mediocrities. This is not a happy place.

The message emanating from the board was that fans should "trust us", in Wenger's words, that the club are on the right path. The question emerging from the floor was where that route leads. That is why, when Hill-Wood eventually remembered to ratify Kroenke's position on the board, there were two votes against. The motion still passed. "Stan, you're still here,' said the chairman, sotto voce. For the long haul, too. Without tangible progress, though, that minor mutiny will spread. The ayes have it. For now.

Anxious Arsenal: The three key issues

The self-sustaining model

The complaint Arsenal are determined only to spend what they can generate, but that has seen them fall behind rivals.

The case for the defence the club reiterated its belief that such a regimen is the most intelligent way to compete.

Transfer spend

The complaint The departure of players has benefited the balance sheet, but the funds raised have not been reinvested.

The case for the defence Wenger remains adamant that the nine signings he made this summer will prove astute.

The Usmanov issue

The complaint Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek billionaire, has volunteered to write a cheque for £100m for players, while garnering less than 30 per cent of the club. Thus far, the current regime has shown no interest in working with him.

The case for the defence Peter Hill-Wood indicated there was no desire to change the constitution of the board at all. rory smith

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003