In a stunning move, Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and The Arsenal Board have agreed to change their name back to Woolwich Arsenal F.C. and move their team back to Southeast London where they were originally founded in 1885. Speaking in a statement to supporters Kroenke said:
“In 1910, Henry Norris made a business decision to move the club to North London to try to help us win more and make more money. It’s fair to say that decision, and many of the decisions of his predecessors, paid off. The last few decades, in particular, have seen the squad achieve some long-term goals. However, the board has also been discussing, at length, another long-term goal.
“As instability has slowly crept into our club, we feel it would be an excellent time to go back to our roots. For as much good as Norris did, we want to distance ourself from him and his morally checkered past, in part because we've always held integrity to be one of the 3rd or 4th most important qualities of a club and also because we could really use a scapegoat.
“Starting in the 2017–2018 season, Arsenal F.C. will again be known as Woolwich Arsenal F.C., in honor of the club’s beginnings as a munitions factory club in Woolwich, south of the Thames. The club will not move to Southeast London until the 2019–2020 season.”
The statement goes on to say that, later this year, Arsenal will break ground on a new, 62,000-seat stadium set to be constructed within Barrack Field in Greenwich. The land is on the site of the former Woolwich Arsenal factories, just north of Ha-Ha Road and south of the Royal Artillery buildings.
Ken Friar OBE, 60-year member of The Arsenal Board, has chimed in with his agreement, “I’ve always loved Islington (in particular, Nanna's and Maison D’être, they're delicious). It’s been Arsenal’s home since before I was born. But since we know we need to make deeper changes, but can't sack Arsène (and he's never going to leave of his own accord), there's only one decision we have left. Our illustrious club started with a bunch of hardworking factory workers on the southeast side. We’re pretty proud of that and we wanted to get back to that.
“The lawn is ripe for the taking,” added Friar. “Yes, we are aware children play cricket there now and again, but we're sure they'll be happy to pay to come to Woolwich games... even if they are currently Charlton fans."
The unprecedented move is made possibly by the pending sale of recently-built Emirates Stadium in Islington-Highbury to rugby powerhouse Saracens, which was also announced by Kroenke in the club statement.
"Saracens will be leaving Allianz Park, within Barnet Copthall, and moving 12 km east, utilizing a stadium 6 times larger than their previous one. The change will elevate their stadium from the smallest in the Aviva Premiership to the largest, which should suit the 2-time defending champions quite nicely. Plus, one of their colors is red, so they only have to partially redecorate."
Part of that deal includes a ground-share with Saracens until the new Barrack Field stadium is completed, which Arsenal hopes to move into by the 2019–2020 season. And when they do, it appears they’ll have a brand new name for their brand new field.
“I can say that we have already signed an agreement for naming rights to the stadium, which we’ll discuss when everything’s done and dusted,” Arsenal Chairman Sir Chips Keswick said in a separate statement.
Speculation abounds as to who the new partnership might be with, but sources suggest they could be poised to pip current Spurs shirt sponsor – and pan-Asian life insurance company – AIA Group for both the stadium name and the shirt sponsor.
If that’s so, Spurs fans will certainly bemoan the change in loyalties, but business insiders have long stated that AIA leadership quickly tired of Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy’s incessant inquisitions to change AIA’s red logo to blue to fit his club’s branding.
Either way, Arsenal is apparently poised to step into the future with a firm grasp on their past and a massive extra £5 million in the summer spending coffers.
Gooners on social media have been understandably polarized about the change back to Southeast London, with some complaining that it’s a waste of time and money and others complaining that it didn’t happen soon enough. But one thing’s for sure, there are some changes coming at Arsenal and they’ll be something to brilliant to behold. Buckle up.