Stan Kroenke affirms 'long term' commitment to Arsenal

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The Independent Football

Stan Kroenke maintains he is at Arsenal for the "long term" - and believes the club have everything in place to be a success both on and off the pitch.

The American billionaire first joined the Arsenal board in 2008, but living up to his nickname 'Silent Stan' had made few public statements over his vision for the club amid the stringent rules of the Takeover Panel.

However, after obtaining a controlling stake of more than 60% in the Gunners' parent holding company earlier this year following the purchase of shares from the late Danny Fiszman, the Denver-based sports magnate maintained at this morning's Annual General Meeting he was relishing his involvement at Emirates Stadium.

"Arsenal has all the elements that you need to have success in this kind of business," said Kroenke, who revealed his sports investment group had turned down past opportunities to become involved in English football.

"[The club] has tremendous management at the top, a wonderful manager on the pitch who makes great decisions in regard to personnel, and a tremendous following with the supporters.

"With all those things in place, it was an easy decision for us to get more involved."

Kroenke added: "We are glad to be here, are happy with the direction of the club are here for the long term - we love London, you had better get used to seeing us, because we will be around."

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis had delivered the opening address to the AGM at the Emirates Stadium, and maintained "being a force" both in the Barclays Premier League and Europe would always continue to be the Gunners' "main objectives".

He said: "In order to continue competing at the top of the game we need a sound financial platform. Having paid off our bank loans, our property business is now debt-free and generating cash for the football side.

"The club's remaining debt is now all related to stadium finance and fixed at affordable long-term rates."

The Arsenal chief executive revealed there would soon be more commercial income from new sponsorship agreements.

He added: "We have a sound foundation to move forwards. Standing still has never been an option."

On the pitch, Arsenal have recovered form after a terrible start to the new season, and booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup earlier this week with a seventh win in their last eight matches.

Nevertheless, there were times when the AGM became somewhat heated, with chairman Peter Hill-Wood the subject of several personal attacks, one shareholder calling for his resignation.

Hill-Wood said: "Sorry to disappoint you, but I have no intention of standing down, although it is actually a decision for my board colleagues.

"I regard it a great honour and privilege to be chairman of this great club.

"I am also a fan, and I share the desire for us to be successful.

"I am also confident we have the best men for the job in [manager] Arsene [Wenger], Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis to take the club forward on and off the field."

Kroenke also felt it necessary to respond to the hostility towards Arsenal's long-serving chairman, taking the microphone to declare: "We are all fans. We are going to a certain place.

"Peter has our support and we are with you, we are fans too."

PA

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