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Why won’t US billionaire Stan Kroenke pay to fireproof Arsenal buildings?

Why won’t US billionaire Stan Kroenke pay to fireproof Arsenal buildings?
Stan Kroenke is the billionaire owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. KSE is the holding company for the likes of Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, and various Esports franchises.

Forbes estimates that Kroenke is currently worth $8.2 billion. He is married to Ann Walton Kroenke, an heir to the Walmart fortune. In other words, they are not strapped for cash.

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KSE also own Arsenal Football Club. So why will they not spare a fraction of their wealth to ensure the safety of those who live on their grounds?

In 2017, 72 people died after a fire broke out at a 23-storey tower block in west London. The Grenfell disaster has led to a greater focus on the safety of high-rise buildings in regards to potential fires.

Two properties that have failed to meet new safety standards exist on Arsenal’s grounds, and the companies named as freeholders of both sites are also owned by Arsenal FC’s parent firm.

The sites are missing cavity barriers, which help contain flames in a fire, and need a number of expensive adjustments before they would pass a post-Grenfell safety test. To fix the problem, the estimated cost is £4.7 million ($6.5 million) for each block of flats.

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Okay, that’s not cheap but it should be no problem for a club with a billionaire owner, right? Well, no. ‘Silent Stan’ – as he is well known in both the UK and his home nation – is continuing to bite his tongue and do nothing.

Instead of offering any kind of financial help to ensure the safety of the people who live on their land, KSE have allowed landlords to ask lease holders to pay £50 a month to cover their building insurance. Residents have also been told they could be liable to pay up to between £36,000 - £50,000 per flat.

How can a man so rich allow this to happen? When you consider Arsenal reportedly pay their captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, well over £300,000 per week, this money should be a drop in the ocean to KSE.

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An Arsenal spokesperson told the Athletic: “Arsenal takes all health and safety matters extremely seriously and applies the highest standards to its operations.

"Arsenal works with Islington Borough Council and its health and safety advisors to maintain all appropriate accreditations and safety certificates.”

However, more recently, when approached by ITV, Arsenal said they have no responsibility to the fabric of the building or fire safety compliance. It seems like the club are happy to shrug their shoulders and simply wash their hands of the whole affair.

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The issue is though, if something was to happen in those flats, and people were to be hurt, Arsenal would be the key focus in the media. There would be no turning back, the club could not wash their hands of anything. No doubt, irreparable damage would be caused to the club, and the loss would be far greater than any figure quoted so far.

Already fans online have voiced their anger with the way things have been handled.  

While Arsenal fan, MP for Islington North, and former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Arsenal were granted planning permission to develop the whole site including for housing, and the responsibility for subsequent problems is theirs. The residents should not bear the costs here.

“No resident should be put under this kind of stress. The responsibility does lie with the freehold owner who constructed it.”

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So why can’t KSE see the issue at hand? How could Stan Kroenke – a man which such vast business success – not foresee the potential danger this could cause to one of his largest assets?

It truly begs the question: why aren’t Stan Kroenke and KSE doing anything?

By Hal Fish 

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