The founding principles of the AST are set out in detail on our website (www.arsenaltrust.org) and in our constitution, but as times change and different challenges arise for the club and supporters it is important to update and amend the policy aims and objectives of the Trust.
In Autumn 2018 the AST Board reviewed its activities following the full takeover of Arsenal by Stan Kroenke’s KSE(UK) Inc. We have subsequently reviewed activities again in January 2020 and this document represents our current position. It builds on feedback received in members’ meetings and from surveys we undertake. We welcome further feedback from members at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following are the specific priorities of the AST Board for 2020:
In summary, we will:
We will maintain the reserves accrued from the forced sale of the AST’s Arsenal shareholding for the eventual use of reinvesting in Arsenal. This could arise as a result of a future sale or listing of Arsenal by the present owner, or through legislative changes made by Parliament. This is a position we keep under annual review.
The AST holds regular members’ meetings and surveys so that we can ensure we reflect the views and priorities of our membership.
The history of the AST
The Arsenal Supporters' Trust was founded in 2003. Our initial objectives were to:
From inception, the AST strove to develop and maintain a strong working relationship with the club as part of our commitment to raise the profile and understanding of financial and ownership issues, and promote the interests of supporter-shareholders. This relationship was established with the Arsenal Board while Keith Edelman was CEO, and continued through the early years of Ivan Gazidis’s tenure. This led to co-operation on the establishment of Fanshare (see below) and other changes to benefit supporters, such as the introduction of the ‘Young Guns’ enclosure and greater transparency on the club’s cash position. However, in recent years the club has responded to valid criticisms of such things as Board diversity, corporate governance issues and how the AGM is run, by reducing AST access to Arsenal directors and executives. We are working to reverse this for the benefit of members and all supporters, without sacrificing the principles on which the AST was founded.
The AST established Arsenal Fanshare, a scheme designed to allow more supporters to own a share in Arsenal. Over 2,000 supporters were members of Arsenal Fanshare, which, at its peak, owned 116 Arsenal shares, making it the third largest shareholder at that time. Sadly, the scheme had to close when the market for Arsenal shares became less liquid following large-scale buying by Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke. At the same time Arsenal withdrew financial support for the scheme following Stan Kroenke’s takeover. In 2014 the Board members of the Arsenal Fanshare Scheme took the difficult decision to close the scheme down. A full explanation of the reasons for this are set out here: http://www.arsenalfanshare.com/.
Arsenal has changed: New ownership arrangements
When the AST was founded in 2003, Arsenal's Board and major shareholders were part of a plural ownership structure that took a custodianship approach, with all profits ploughed back in to the club. All of the major shareholders and Board members were lifelong Arsenal fans, with three generations of Hill-Woods and Bracewell-Smiths serving as chairmen and/or Board members. The Board largely worked together to do what was right for the club and monies raised by Arsenal were reinvested to make the club stronger.
As well as the larger shareholders on the Board, there were a couple of thousand smaller shareholders who held around ten per cent of the shares. The Arsenal Board had to answer to all shareholders, up to a point, with important accountability and transparency occurring through the publication of the Company Report & Accounts and the holding of an Annual General Meeting to which all shareholders were invited.
In 2011 Stan Kroenke, through KSE, became majority owner of Arsenal, eventually building a stake of 67 per cent. The other Board members sold all their shares to him and ceased to represent any equity interests.
In mid-2018 the AST had around 1,000 paying members, many of whom were individual shareholders in Arsenal. Approximately three per cent of the club's equity was still owned by small shareholders. The AST itself owned six shares in Arsenal (out of the total of 62,217).
On August 7, 2018, KSE announced they had agreed to buy the shares of Red & White Holdings. Subsequently KSE forced all other shareholders to sell and took 100 per cent control of Arsenal.
To fund the purchase of shares from Red & White Holdings, Kroenke took out a loan of £557m secured against KSE’s assets – its Arsenal shares.
To date Stan Kroenke has maintained a very low profile as owner and, despite promises to do so, has not met with the AST or any other supporters’ group since becoming majority owner in 2011. His son Josh Kroenke is taking on an increasing role and we hope that he will address some of the issues we have long been raising including the need for better communication with Arsenal supporters.
AST Principles: How we believe Arsenal should operate
The AST continues to believe that Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one person. The best ownership model for Arsenal will always include supporters being represented and involved in the ownership structure as shareholders.
We believe that ideally at least ten per cent of Arsenal shares should be in the hands of small shareholders and/or supporters' groups. There should also be supporter representation on the club Board and/or much more structured relationships with the owners and directors. This would allow interested supporters to have an appropriate voice, the opportunity to be engaged and to feel that they belong to the club. This still occurs at other leading European clubs such as Barcelona and it is integral to the German ownership model.
The AST supports Arsenal being run as a sustainable business and does not support the creation of a business model that places the future of the club at risk by exposing it to excessive levels of debt.
The AST was wholly against the takeover by Stan Kroenke and is concerned at the possibility of the acquisition debt of over £500m being placed against Arsenal and the potential use the club's income to service this debt, as has happened at Manchester United (and previously at Liverpool under Hicks and Gillett). We want to see profits made at Arsenal reinvested in the club and we do not support dividend payments or excessive management salaries or fees as ways of extracting money from the club.
The AST will continue to seek dialogue with the club Board and Chief Executive on ownership subjects, and we will continue to monitor the club’s governance arrangements and finances. It must be noted that the recent structural changes mean that there is no longer an AGM and there is reduced financial reporting. This includes accounts being filed just once a year and probably later in the financial cycle.
A long-term view should always be taken with regard to football results and the club's performance; we do not believe that reacting to individual events such as losing any single match is the best way. It is not current AST policy to make specific criticism on the football personnel of the club, particularly during the season. However, we are ultimately answerable to our membership on policy and will always represent members' views to the best of our ability.