16 December ~ In the same week Patrice Evra branded Arsenal "a football training centre", the club are to investigate opening a new academy in the US. Officials at the Emirates believe there is a mine of potential talent in America and they are hopeful of gaining a foothold on the other side of the Atlantic. Arsenal's plan, spearheaded by shareholder Stan Kroenke, is to set up an academy with permanent coaches and scouts on the east coast. They are not the first English club to cast their net far and wide with Chelsea, Man Utd, Everton and West Ham already running soccer schools in America.
However, it is thought that this move is the next phase of Kroenke and Arsenal's plan to build the club's "brand" in America. Three years ago Arsenal and Kroenke Sports Enterprises struck a deal which was designed to make the club a household name worldwide and the academy would certainly help to do that. Kroenke, who owns 29.9 per cent of the club, is already owner of NFL side St Louis Rams and he holds significant shares in four other American sports teams. With a portfolio like his, it seems Arsenal are well placed to form lucrative partnerships with some of the leading names in US sport.
An Arsenal source said in the Daily Express: "The club is convinced that America is a vast and largely untapped potential resource. Football is huge in America and there should be more American youngsters getting through to the highest level." While Evra's comments proved right after his side's defeat at Old Trafford, Arsenal should come out victorious in the battle to "break" America. Their Manchester rivals agreed a lucrative partnership with the New York Yankees baseball team in 2001, hoping to raise their profile in the US. But this venture was ended by mutual consent, with both sides admitting the project had failed.
If this latest venture pays off, Arsenal could reap the rewards of their "training centre" in a few years as the academy delivers talented kids to the Premier League. And who says you don't win anything with kids? Matt Green