The Arsenal director Josh Kroenke has told supporters his family have no intention of selling the club despite the fierce backlash that greeted the botched attempt this week to join a European Super League.
Kroenke joined the club’s chief executive, Vinai Venkatesham, on Thursday in a meeting with the Arsenal fans’ forum, during which passions are understood to have run high. In one exchange he was told Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, which he runs with his father, Stan, should sell Arsenal as a result of the debacle but he maintained their long-term commitment and did not rule out supporter representation on the board as a future change in the club’s structure.
Both men apologised for what Venkatesham called “a bad decision, a terrible one” in signing up to the doomed setup and claimed they were not among its instigators, a line to which the club have stuck since news broke on Sunday. Kroenke is believed to have acknowledged there has been a lack of trust from Arsenal supporters throughout their 10-year ownership but stated a desire to rebuild and said he believed they remain fit to move forward at the helm.
Venkatesham confirmed a report that he contacted all 14 of the Premier League clubs not involved in the scheme to apologise for Arsenal’s decision, which he likened to jumping aboard a train about to leave a station.
It remains to be seen whether the fallout from a sometimes heated meeting has any effect on a protest before the match on Friday against Everton, which has been planned to take place outside the Emirates Stadium.
Kroenke and Venkatesham have been in damage-limitation mode since Arsenal withdrew from the Super League on Tuesday night. Mikel Arteta revealed the Kroenkes had apologised to him for the events of recent days – if not, seemingly, for the plan itself. Venkatesham held a meeting with the squad and staff on Wednesday to offer his own contrition.
“Obviously they have the maximum responsibility of running the football club and this is what they said,” Arteta said of the Kroenkes’ mea culpa. “They apologised for disturbing the team, not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier and explain the reasons why. They wanted me to pass on the message to the players. That’s all you can ask for. The way they’ve done it, I have to accept it completely.”
During the supporters’ meeting Kroenke confirmed KSE would meet all outside costs relating to Arsenal’s failed breakaway, which he said amounted to less than a reported £8m. The punishments may extend beyond financial outlay, though, and Arteta said Arsenal may have to take any sanctions that come their way.
“We have to understand the principle and the reasons why those clubs were trying to achieve something, but if it wasn’t done in the right way then there are always consequences and we’re going to have to accept any there,” he said.
Arteta said a role in any competition “has to be earned” on the pitch but fired back at suggestions Arsenal’s current standing should give them no place among a reconfigured European elite, saying they are “one of the best clubs in the world”.
He said: “You cannot deny the history, and that history is attached to results. It’s attached to a certain way of doing things, to certain values, to representing those in the right manner, to having the amount of support and love that we have around the world. And that’s not a coincidence, that’s been earned over years and years.”
Asked whether the situation had been personally embarrassing for him, he admitted it has been a setback to the momentum he has been trying to build. “I would say that it puts us a little bit on the back foot again … My biggest concern now and my biggest aim is to get our people and our fans back towards the team and feeling proud of it.”