Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said owner Stan Kroenke apologised to him directly over the European Super League fiasco and believes the backlash proves “the soul of this sport belongs to the fans.”
The north London side were one of six English clubs signed up to a breakaway competition which appears on the brink of collapse less than a week after its controversial launch, following widespread condemnation throughout the game.
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Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham addressed the players and Arteta at London Colney on Wednesday to explain the club’s thinking.
Arteta said the Kroenke family had also reached out ahead of a planned fans’ protest outside Emirates Stadium before Friday’s Premier League game against Everton.
“I had some communication with them as well, I spoke with them yesterday,” Arteta said at a news conference. “As always, every time we need something and something is happening they are straight away ready to act, to give us the answers they can do, the support they can do and they have done it again.
“They have the maximum responsibility to run the football club and that is what they said was: ‘apologies for disturbing the team, we did it without the capacity to communicate in a different way earlier and pass on my message to the players’ — that is all you can ask for.
“All of them had the right intentions to defend the club and put the club in the best possible position for now and for the future but accepting that way it was handled has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake.
“I have to really respect that when people have genuine intentions to do the best for the club and then they can stand up here and apologise. I think the players and the staff and everyone working at the club has to accept that and move on.
“I think this has given big lessons and it shows the importance of football in the world. And it shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans — and that’s it. During this pandemic, for a year, we have been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the stadium.
“But, when the fans have to come out and talk, they’ve done it really loud and clear, and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.
“And every club, leaving their interests apart, has done the right thing — which is, they are the ones [the fans], we have to listen to them, we put it aside and in 24 hours we kill the project. So that is a massive statement for the history of football.”
Arteta said he was only made aware of the Super League plans — and Arsenal’s involvement in it — shortly before the news was leaked on Sunday but he did not feel let down by the owners.
“No, I feel privileged again and I will say it loud and clear again, the way we have dealt with the pandemic internally, all the issues we have had have been unprecedented, I still see everyone coming here with smiles on their faces and happy to represent this football club and that for me is a big achievement and something I am really proud of because everyone is contributing to that from the top to the bottom,” he said.
“I found out just a little bit before the news was leaked. And then everything was completely out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner. There was not really time to think about it, reflect and evaluate or anything because by the time that was out, a big tsunami already came onto it and basically killed it.”