Here is the FULL transcript of our surprise interview with Josh Kroenke and his senior management team at Arsenal.
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Monday, 15 July
Dicks Sporting Goods Park
Attendees: Josh Kroenke, Vinai Venkatesham, Raul Sanllehi, 3 UK Journalists, and The Gooners Podcast
Q: You’ve obviously seen the letter, would be good to address your care and passion for the club
JK: For me, on a personal level, I’m not sure how to address my passion, because anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about AFC. I’m over there as much as I can be, and when we’re not there we instill the work to be done with good people. There’s been a lot of heavy lifting over the last 12-14 months, we have an entirely new structure that we are excited about, the final piece of the puzzle is the technical director (Edu). I’m really excited about his appointment, he brings not only Arsenal DNA to the table, but he also brings a mentality instilled with him from the invincibles year. And I think that type of invincible mentality will serve us well both now and in the future.
Q: Does it hurt you when Arsenal fans question your passion for the club, your loyalty to it?
JK: Absolutely, absolutely. But I’m not in this business to make friends, I’m in it to win. If anyone’s ever going to question anything about our ownership, which I view as a custodianship, even though one would say we’re owners of the club, the supporters trust us to be custodians of the values, and that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to win while also respecting the values and traditions of the club.
Q: Can you tell us how you felt in Baku?
JK: I was there in Baku on behalf of KSE, on behalf of my father, our family, I was down there on the sideline, I was down there on the medal podium handing out 2nd place medals, I saw the look on our coaches and players face, on all of our staff, I felt and I saw how they felt and I felt the same way. I think the most important thing about being down on the pitch was understanding that there was also a resolve down there. There were some people that were pretty pissed off that we lost that last match. I think that resolve will serve us well as we move forward.
Q: You say you’re in it to win it, some of the fans are saying AFC isn’t really worried about winning, only about making money..
MIKE: There was a quote some time ago about “not buying a team to win trophies” and unfortunately people have put a lot of..
JK: I would love to hear that quote, honestly, because I’m not sure what exactly was said, we’ve never said anything other than we’re in it to win. And if anything else was aid either someone else made it up or misconstrued our statement.
MIKE: I think the quote was in the context of “it’s very very difficult to win in this league..”
JK: That’s a fact
MIKE: If you buy a team to win trophies then you’re going to be very disappointed most of the time, and I believe it was twisted into “we don’t care about trophies” – I’m not asking you to respond to a quote that may not have been portrayed accurately…
JK: All I can say is what I feel and what I know my father feels, which is that we’re in it to win it. If you’re in sports to make money, if you’re in sports to make people happy, it’s a tough tough tough business. We understand not everyone is going to agree with everything that goes on, but our job is to run the club as we see fit and hire good people to do their job well. I think we’ve filled out our new organizational structure very well and I think our fans are going to be pleased going forward.
Q: Can I just ask you about the issue of spending this summer, why is that such a restrictive issue, can you just break it down.
JK: I mean, if we’re going to go into the finer points, I’d have to defer to these guys who are on my right (Vinai) and my left (Raul). I’ve always told them we need to be as aggressive as possible. I think it’s no secret we have a champions league wage bill with a Europa League budget right now. I think that’s a fact. It’s one we’re trying to figure out how to face internally at the moment. That doesn’t mean my father and I have ever said anything about any restrictions on spending – we know where we need to be, we know the areas we need to address on the pitch, we talk about those extensively, usually before the even supporters become concerned about those roles. We try to stay ahead of the curve, these guys are working as hard as they can behind the scenes to bring some more talent into our pool.
Q: Do you think the fans, sometimes they want you to just spend money, do you worry that that’s their view.
JK: No, I understand. To be frank, that’s not their job. Their job is only concerned with what goes on on the pitch when they’re ready to play a match. I’m not concerned with the buying and the selling, it’s not who you buy, it’s not how you buy, there’s multiple statements to say how to skin that cat. While we’re not going to be in the market for some of the top players in the world at the moment, while they’re the top players, we’re actively scouting the globe trying to find the next big thing to try to become great at AFC, and not only will be keep them at the club, but we’ll be able to retain them and keep them in the fold going forward.
Q: Does that require a bit of patience then from the fans?
JK: I would say yes, but that’s also not their job (to be patient). Their job is to cheer us on when we’re on the pitch. Our job is to try to figure out how to stay patient. To me, that’s one of the hardest things about my role is to remain patient. Because I am a fan, I want to win the next match immediately. But I also know that with where we are with the club, and putting in a solid foundation will only allow us to be more successful going forward. I think that we’ve not only laid that foundation, we’re starting to build up from that now.
Q: Can you think of another example of a club that has done it intelligently, that maybe Arsenal, not copy, but emulate to get back into the top 4 during this maybe restrictive time?
JK: You know, that’s a great question – rather than point to any other clubs, I’d rather point internally to KSE. I think we’ve done a really good job, especially over the last 5-6 years. Understanding where our issues lie, putting people in place, giving them the time, patience and resources to do their job. I think if you point to the Los Angeles Rams, if you point to the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, Arsenal supporters should see a model there that says you have elite young talent, led by wonderful coaching, and an environment where every resource is available to them, and that’s what we can provide to Arsenal.
Q: Do you think the fans are worried that because you have so many franchises, 5-6 clubs, you’re almost spreading yourself too thin as far as your commitment to one club?
JK: I can see how they might think that, but to me I think that’s only an advantage. I think we’re starting to understand for myself personally, how to take best practices and apply them across multiple places. When I speak to Raul, when I speak to Vinai, I’m asking some of the same questions. It’s all very different, but it’s all “fruit to fruit”. I think the English Premier League compared to anything in the United States is more like “apples to watermelons” because it’s so different and so big, but there are similarities in the way the business is run, structured, and the successful personalities that bring success to the clubs on the pitch.
Q: How confident are you that you can finish the transfer window in a stronger place, in a place that you need to be to get into the Champions League next season?
ANDY: I see firsthand [here in Denver] the young coach, young Avs, same with the Nuggets, and we see you in the Denver press here, what’s your reluctance to talking to Arsenal.com, putting a video on the website, to say to these fans “I hear you, I want to address these issues” like you’re addressing with us, because I think it goes a long way as a supporter, and we hear “Silent Stan” so much, what’s your reluctance from the Kroenke’s just sitting down and saying “here’s our roadmap, it’s a 5-year plan, there could be bumps..” We’ve seen your last 14 months, hiring Vinai and Raul, Edu, having Freddie move over, we get what you’re doing, I think hearing it from you specifically, like we do with the Nuggets and the Avs.. is there a reluctance from you with the media the way it is over in England?
INTERRUPT (Tomago): Do you think that’s a fair assessment, John?
JK: It’s okay, its okay. To Tomago’s point, whether you think its fair or not, perception is sometimes reality. I would say that I’ve been more aggressive over the last year or so than anyone has been in quite some time. I’ve sat down with fans supporters groups. I’m not afraid to sit down and have tough conversations with anybody because I’m transparent, we’re transparent, we have nothing to hide, we all want the same thing, we’re just aggressively trying to make it happen. It’s just that our timeline might not come across as aggressive as others might like it to seem, but we’re not going to compromise the values that have kept the Arsenal Football Club the way it is and has been over 130 years.
Q: Do you think the supporters expectations are a bit unrealistic?
JK: I don’t know, it doesn’t matter because we love their passion, without that passion we don’t have a business. Whether they’re realistic or unrealistic, we want that passion, because that’s the only way that our business and our sport thrives, through supporter passion.
Q: Can you take us through, the first time you read that letter, maybe from a personal perspective, how that felt. I’m presuming you woke up to it, like all of us did?
JK: I don’t want really to go into too much details, you know, I think I answered that in a way a few minutes ago, I mean obviously it hits you personally, especially when you’re up at 4am after a late night watching a game, or flying all night to make sure you’re there, to know that Raul, Vinai and Unai have your undoubted support, because there’s a lot of thought and alotof hours that go into that. Yeah, it is what it is, the fans have every right to their opinion. Whether it’s good or whether its bad, we’re going to do the same thing, we’re going to go about our process, we’re going to keep working hard for the club.
2nd Half kicks off, Josh thanks us for their time.
Brief aside, Josh mentions to me that sometimes you have to have your rhinoceros hide on, but he’s really very excited, thinks we have some very good people in place, having people with Arsenal DNA is a massive thing for him and that its frustrating not being able to turn the page as quickly as they all would like but he’s got positive feelings about where we’re headed.
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