Disclaimer: The following is an article that was conceived during a podcast with Joe McAtee of SB Nation’s Los Angeles Rams blog, Turf Show Times. During our podcast, Joe brought up Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s business dealings in London with Arsenal, another one of his holdings. Acknowledging that this was a subject that McAtee brought to us, I wanted to explore it a bit deeper. Much appreciated to Joe and Turf Show Times for their time and insight.
Earlier this week, LA Rams Report was fortunate to pin down Joe McAtee of SB Nation’s Los Angeles Rams blog, Turf Show Times, for an appearance on our Flipping Tables Podcast with Cam Worrell and Josh Webb. Toward the end of the podcast, the discussion drifted toward Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s business dealings with Barclay’s Premier League giant Arsenal. The conversation was interesting enough that I decided it warranted its own article on the site and that bring us to now.
Those familiar with my work and my social media accounts will also know that I am big fan of the Premier League and Manchester City. For my money, soccer is the most exciting sport -- minute by minute -- that any fan could watch. Feel free to disagree, but the revenue and sheer number of participants in the sport do not lie; soccer is the most popular and wealthy sport in the world. In fact, there is so much money in soccer that the Premier League has begun to attract wealthy owners from the world of American sports. One such owner is none other than the Los Angeles Rams’ Stan Kroenke.
Aside from the Rams, Kroenke’s owns Arsenal F.C., the Colorado Rapids, and the Colorado Mammoth. When it comes to Kroenke in the American media, much of the subject matter is focused on his work with the Rams and their move to Los Angeles. Elsewhere in the globe, people couldn’t give a damn about the Rams and they’re far more interested in what he does with Arsenal, one of the Premier League’s most storied and notable organizations, but what makes that so interesting is the fact that one can almost be used as a guiding stick to explain the other.
As the Rams entered free agency, the whole of Los Angeles and GMs around the league were interested to see how they would handle balancing their move with a real need to address the roster in the offseason. Once the deadline hit, the Rams saw two of their three best secondary players walk away without getting any compensation in return. In soccer parlance, the Rams were willing to let CB Janoris Jenkins and S Rodney McLeod sign anywhere on a free. Additionally, they cut LB James Laurinaitis, TE Jared Cook, and DE Chris Long.
The Rams did end up re-signing LB Mark Barron, C Tim Barnes, S Cody Davis, WR Brian Quick, DE Eugene Sims, TE Cory Harkey, and DE William Hayes, but the only extra pieces they added to their roster were former Titans CB Coty Sensabaugh and former Dolphins OLB Quinton Couples. There is still a ways to go before the season starts, but it seems more and more likely that the Rams will not be making significant moves in free agency. If they are going to add serious talent the roster, it seems far more likely this will come via the NFL Draft.
In many ways, the Rams’ offseason has been a mirror image of Arsenal’s. Both of Kroenke’s crown jewels have a lot in common in that they compete to maintain rather than to win. Arsenal had the world at their fingertips this offseason, but opted to avoid any major signings other than goalkeeper Petr Cech. In a year where the Gunners were favored to win the league in a runaway, Arsenal’s lack of offseason transactions has them slipping and sliding to their usual fourth-place finish. Fans of the organization are screaming for Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger’s head, but ownership has ignored these cries in favor of a stable ship.
For all of Wenger’s faults with Arsenal, the Gunners consistently finish in the top four of the Premier League, which gives them the opportunity to compete in European competition. The club may not have won the league in over a decade, but they continue to feature in Europe and run deep into domestic competitions. For Kroenke and the Arsenal board, this seems to have been more than enough.
While Londoners are demanding more, Kroenke does not seem to be interested in replacing Wenger, who has been the manager of the club for twenty years. In the time Wenger has been with the club, Arsenal have won the Premier League a total of three times. Until 2014, the club had not won a trophy or competition since 2004 and yet Wenger’s job was never in question. How does this affect the Rams? Well, this may explain why HC Jeff Fisher is on the verge of getting a contract extension despite not having a winning record since 2008.
At any other organization in the world, four straight seasons of 7 or fewer wins would earn a manager his walking papers. At Kroenke Sports Enterprises, that sort of productivity will get you an extension and organizational support. It is the same reason that Wenger will return to the sidelines in London even though his team will likely finish behind Leicester City and Tottenham during a year in which the Gunners were supposedly runaway favorites. This is the norm at KSE and it’s not likely to change moving forward.
Wenger and Fisher are not that dissimilar in their approach. Both coaches place a strong emphasis on winning with what you have and building from within. The development of young players into budding stars is also something these two crafty veterans share. Whether or not it is true, fans of both organizations feel that both men have been at their positions longer than the results indicate they should. On a related note, both franchises face a lack of strong options if they even decide to go in a different direction.
The Rams and Gunners share some similarities on the field of play, as well. Nobody around either league wants to face off against these organizations, even if they are failing to live up to fan expectations. Both organizations have the ability to humiliate even the best teams in their respective leagues and that is part and parcel of what makes the fans so angry. If the consistency were there for either franchise, it is scary to think of what is possible. Unrealized potential defines both teams at this point.
It’s impossible to say what is inside Kroenke’s head, but his actions would suggest he’s more concerned with putting a competitor on the field and doing just enough to keep fans coming back year after year under the notion that the new year could bring great things. It seems unlikely that Fisher will enjoy a tenure as delicious as the one Wenger has enjoyed in London, but it does seem more and more likely that he will not be judged by wins and losses.
So now Los Angeles waits and they will likely continue to wait for something that is not coming. A move to a big city does not mean a big move coming to the city. The Rams will field a tough and competitive team because that is what Kroenke and Fisher do, but it will not be a team with loads of marquee signings and Hollywood stars. That’s not the style of Kroenke, nor the style of those he chooses to helm his properties. They will instead focus on consistency and development.
It may not be perfect and it may not be glamorous, but steady ambition seems to be the mantra for Kroenke as well as one of his players.