Much ink has been spilled, and many pixels have been, uh, pixeled, about the financial state of soccer in general, and of Arsenal in particular, over the years. Arsenal are a well-run club; they built themselves a stadium and remained competitive while doing so, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment. And they did this all without either going into hideous amounts of debt or without their owner taking every dime of dividend and profit that he could at every opportunity.
Which is what makes today's news that Stan Kroenke took a £3 million payout from Arsenal so disturbing for some people. Technically, the money was "paid to Kroenke's company, KSE LLC, for strategic and advisory services", but still - Arsenal, and Kroenke, were supposed to be above that, right? Kroenke's rich, he's got billions, his wife has multiple billions, so why take a paltry £3 million out of Arsenal now? If Stan needs more money, he can build another Wal-Mart, right?
Given that the £3 million figure is roughly equivalent to the change in income since Arsenal's ticket price rise last year, making the most expensive soccer ticket in England that much more expensive, let's just say that in corporate PR-speak, the optics of this are puzzling at best.
On the surface, I should probably be annoyed by this, but here's why I'm not:
1. In seven years of ownership, Stan Kroenke has taken a sum total of £3 million out of his club (this is of course considering only cash draws, not overall profits). In that same time period, his club built a stadium that has launched Arsenal into the financial stratosphere relative to most clubs.
2. In that same seven year period, in Manchester, the Glazer family has loaded Manchester United with debt - a £500 million bond issue in 2010 being the latest restructuring of their financial Titanic's deck chairs - and in 2012, did a share issue that netted the Glazer family over £200 million.
3. Arsenal are run within their means, sustainably. We all know what the on-pitch ramifications of this have been, but it's important to reiterate that fact in light of point #2.
4. Arsenal is a business, not a community trust. This may have been a small profit grab, it may have been done to exploit a loophole in accounting rules, or it may have been Stan saying "Daddy needs a new condo in Aspen". Either way...
5. ...Arsenal is Kroenke's asset, to do with as he wishes.
It's those last two points that tend to rub people the wrong way, but are the most important things to remember. Arsenal are a very large, very successful business; if the owner of said business wants to take a little vig every now and again, why not? It's not like it costs us personally, it's not like £3 million will buy the rainbow-shitting unicorn that is the Ideal Defensive Midfielder That Will Lead Arsenal To All The Glory; overall, it's really not that big of a deal, and when people try to convince you it is, you can safely ignore them, because it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.