Dennis Bergkamp says he backed Daniel Ek’s bid to buy Arsenal because he wants to restore the club’s DNA with an owner who understands a football club cannot be run just as a business.
Ek claimed his £1.8bn offer to buy Arsenal was rejected last week, the Spotify co-founder revealing the Premier League club’s owners – Stan and Josh Kroenke – told him ‘they don’t need the money’.
Bergkamp, who was speaking after he was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame, has backed Ek’s bid along with fellow Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira.
“Like Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, it’s hard for me to recognise the Arsenal from our time,” Bergkamp told Dutch football magazine Voetbal International. “The ambition to win trophies is in Arsenal’s DNA. Never accept a loss. That mentality has slowly disappeared. I feel there’s a sense of resignation within the current situation. That is very serious.
“It’s like it’s normal, given the financial conditions, that Arsenal are ending up somewhere in the middle of the league behind the top clubs. That’s not how it should be with this club. Arsenal’s DNA needs to be repaired.”
Bergkamp won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his 11 years at Arsenal, but the north London club will end this season outside the top four for a fifth successive campaign.
The Dutchman cites the club’s role in the breakaway European Super League as a tipping point for Ek’s attempt to initiate a takeover.
“Daniel has been a true Arsenal fan all his life. He also was concerned about the downfall of the club,” Bergkamp said. “When the Super League was dominating the news on a daily basis, Daniel pretty much exploded. That was the moment he wanted to press ahead and got in touch with us.
“During a Zoom meeting with Thierry, Patrick and myself, he shared his concerns and his plans with us. That immediately made an impact, and it became clear to me what a big fan Daniel is. I think that’s important: Daniel does not see a takeover as the purchase of a fun toy to play with.
“He understands the passion of a football fan because he is one himself. He also wants to considerably increase the influence of the fans. For example, by making them part of the club’s board. We think that’s very important. We want to get closer to the fans.
“Daniel realises that the problems that Arsenal have cannot be resolved just like that. Simply spending a bit of money and firing the coach doesn’t cut it. If Arsenal want to compete towards the top of the league next season, they will need a top player in every department. The problem is that the club has been lacking appeal for a while now among players of that calibre. Therefore, structural changes will have to be made. This is the backbone of Arsenal. It will be a far-reaching and long-term project.
“You need to start at the top and that is why a takeover is crucial. This way, Arsenal can continue with an owner who understands that a football club should not be run like a business. No matter how much money is involved in English football, Arsenal is and will always be a football club. Therefore, it needs to be managed accordingly at all levels.”
Following the end of his playing career, Bergkamp returned to Ajax as a coach, and hinted he – along with Henry and Vieira – may be open to hands-on roles at Arsenal if Ek’s takeover was to go ahead.
“Football, passion and ambition need to be at the centre of things again. We have plenty of ideas about the technical details, but there is little point in jumping to conclusions,” Bergkamp said.
“First, Daniel needs to get his takeover bid accepted. After that, it would be logical to make use of the knowledge we have gained during and after our careers. We are ready and so is Daniel. The fans are excited. Now it is up to the present leadership of the club.”