Gunners open to Kroenke talks?

May 15, 2008

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood admits there is every reason to expect there will be further discussions with American billionaire Stan Kroenke over how his involvement within the Premier League club can be 'extended'.

The Gunners remain the only side in the top four to still be in English ownership, and have continued to reject suggestions they need a cash injection from a foreign benefactor.

Last year, Hill-Wood dismissed the interest of sports tycoon Kroenke, claiming he 'did not want his sort' at Emirates Stadium.

However, that was before face to face talks with the American and representatives of his sports group, which also have interests in ice hockey, basketball, American football, as well as the Major Soccer League club Colorado Rapids.

Kroenke already owns 12% of Arsenal following his purchase of the ITV broadband stake and his KSE (Kroenke Sports Enterprise) group already have a marketing link with the Gunners via the Colorado Rapids.

Hill-Wood believes this could be developed into a more formal arrangement as Arsenal look to force themselves back into contention for the Premier League title, having just fallen short this season.

Hill-Wood said: 'He already has a major link with the club through the broadband rights, and there is every reason to expect that we shall discuss further how his involvement can be extended.'

Whether or not Kroenke will be offered a seat on the board remains to be seen, which would then lead to speculation the American may well look to take a controlling interest in the club.

However, Hill-Wood admits their relationship is moving forwards all the time.

'Contrary to what I said before, I now believe he may well have a vital contribution to make to the future of this football club,' Hill-Wood said in an interview with the Daily Express.

'I am not denying I said what I said, but I made those observations before meeting Stan. I have now got to know him and I have changed my opinions.

'When I met him, yes, I did not think he was the right person to take control of Arsenal Football Club. Now I know him as a man who is very much steeped in sport. He is a sports fan.'

Kroenke, however, is not the only potential foreign investor who could bring some extra cash to the club, which is currently saddled by a long-term 25-year mortgage following the £300million move to Emirates Stadium.

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, whose Red and White Holdings company is fronted by former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, currently holds almost 25% of the club's shares but maintains he has no intentions of mounting a hostile takeover.

Arsenal are currently looking for a new managing director following the announcement Keith Edelman - the man who helped oversee the move to Emirates Stadium - was set to leave the club.

The opportunities provided by a closer working relationship with Kroenke, as the Gunners look to globalise their brand, would be clear.

Manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, has always maintained he wanted to keep a distance between his coaching role and the goings on behind the scenes.

However, were the likes of Kroenke, or indeed Usmanov, to gain a controlling interest in the club, the Arsenal manager could expect more substantial funds with which to attack the transfer market.

However, Wenger has also stressed his desire for a club to 'live within their resources', and warned against depending on a single benefactor such as Chelsea, and to an extent Manchester United, now do.