Arsenal’s board was accused of treating disgruntled minor shareholders like “peasants” at a fractious annual general meeting that ended in loud boos and slow clapping on Thursday.
Gunners chairman Sir Chips Keswick – reappointed to the board despite the move being opposed in a show of hands from the floor – bore the brunt of the ire, with some shareholders accusing him of dodging questions.
Keswick, 77, sparked opprobrium when asked whether he would commit to starting next year’s AGM earlier in order that there be enough time to address all attendees’ questions.
“The impression is that the chairman has had enough of the peasants revolting,” he was told by a shareholder. “This meeting should be for the benefit of shareholders; not an inconvenience ahead of a three-course nosh-up.”
Keswick failed to quell the uprising with a series of curt and non-committal replies before abruptly halting the closing question-and-answer session. “I have stopped the meeting,” he said. “Write in if you’ve got a problem.”
The former Bank of England director and Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke’s son Josh were reappointed to the board despite the moves being voted down in a show of hands.
It forced the board to hold formal ballots, which club secretary David Miles advised would be foregone conclusions as the directors held 97 per cent of the vote through shares or proxy votes.
Shareholders had been urged to oppose the re-elections by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, who have lobbied for a shake-up of the board.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis earlier defended Keswick, who succeeded Peter Hill-Wood in 2013, calling him “a forthright and powerful voice on our board and a lifelong Arsenal fan”. Kroenke Sr declined calls from the floor to address the meeting.
Manager Arsene Wenger hinted that he could depart from his habit of always honouring a contract and walk away at the end of the season, a year before his current deal expires.
“My hunger and commitment is bigger than ever,” said the long-serving boss, 68. “But I accept that when you have been at a club a long time everybody questions that. I question myself a lot to be better every single day. I will sit down every year with my board to see where I go from there.”
He added later: “I am 21 years at the club and I want to feel that I do well and see what the board thinks of my performance and after that we decide where we go. Of course my desire has always been to respect my contracts but that’s what I meant. I said what I said and I stand by that.”