Arsenal supporters Trust will today launch an initiative which aims to help fans buy a small shareholding and increase their representation in the Premier League club.
"Arsenal Fanshare" has the full backing of the Gunners, who have American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke as their largest individual stakeholder. A move towards tha mutual, democratic involvement of fans comes amid growing unease within supporters' groups at leveraged buyouts that can saddle clubs with potentially crippling debts.
Supporters will be able to sign up to the scheme online, where they will get the opportunity to purchase "fanshares" at one hundredth of the price of those in Arsenal Holdings Plc – around £95. Anyone eventually purchasing 100 will have their status converted to receive full voting rights for one share. The AST collectively speak for approximately 3 per cent of the club's overall equity.
AST spokesperson Tim Payton said: "Arsenal Fanshare has been established to increase supporter ownership and representation. The AST recently surveyed its membership on their preferred ownership structure – 90 per cent of members rate maintaining the club's custodianship and protecting the long-term future the most important priority.
"There is little support for the club being taken private, with 84 per cent preferring Arsenal's ownership model to be one which includes supporter representation.
"The AST welcomes the support the board and chief executive Ivan Gazidis have given the scheme. The support Arsenal Fanshare has from all of the club's major shareholders should allow all talk of a takeover to be put to one side. We urge all Arsenal fans to take this opportunity and get involved – by working together we can make Arsenal even stronger."
Currently, Kroenke is Arsenal's largest individual shareholder at 29.9 per cent. Alisher Usmanov backs the Red & White Holdings group, whose stake is at just over 26 per cent, but unlike Kroenke the Uzbek-born mining billionaire has not been invited onto the Arsenal board.
Key to the future ownership of the club would appear to be the stock of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith, who left the board during December 2008 and has appointed a private-equity firm to sell her 15.9 per cent.