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English Premier League 2016-17

Hong Kong Arsenal fans behind ‘Respect Wenger’ plane banner stunt deny Jardine Matheson funded it

Rumours online speculated that Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick, brother of Jardines’ Tai-pan may have been behind it

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 11:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 11:20pm

A group of Hong Kong Arsenal fans who paid for a plane to fly a banner supporting under-fire manager Arsene Wenger over a match at the weekend have denied that Jardine Matheson had anything to do with the stunt.

John ‘Chips’ Keswick, the Arsenal chairman, is part of the billionaire dynasty that controls the massive conglomerate, which has been one of the key ‘hongs’ or business houses in the region since colonial times.

Chips’ older brother Henry is the current ‘Tai-pan’ or chairman of Jardine Matheson Holdings, and younger brother Simon and son Adam are on the board of directors.

Two planes flew banners over the Hawthorns stadium during Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to West Brom on Saturday. One banner read “No contract #WengerOut” while the other read “In Arsene we trust #RespectAW”.

After the company which flew both banners revealed that Hong Kong-based Arsenal fans arranged the supportive one, that connection led to speculation among the club’s supporters that Keswick / Jardines were involved.

“To clear up any possible confusion that our aerial banner may have caused to the public by false rumours, we are writing this letter to explain our actions and the intention behind them,” said fans group “Gooners20” in a letter to Goal.com, which originally reported the story.

“The rumour is completely false. The banner was designed and paid for by us whereas Arsenal Football Club and its affiliates have never been involved.

“The ... banner was a spontaneous movement from us without any organisational affiliation to Arsenal Football Club in response to the agenda-driven biased act which involved an insulting banner being flown during the West Bromwich game financed by a crowdsourcing campaign supported by small group of irrational and disrespectful people,” the letter added.

“We apologise for any inconvenience or trouble caused to Arsenal Football Club, Sir Chips Keswick and Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd.”

The Post reached out to Jardines for comment.

Wenger, the longest-serving manager in the Premier League, has been under severe pressure from a growing contingent of Arsenal fans who want him to leave.

Keswick issued a statement earlier this month saying no decision would be made until the end of the season.

“We are fully aware of the attention currently focused on the club and understand the debate,” the Arsenal chairman said. “We respect that fans are entitled to their different individual opinions but we will always run this great football club with its best long-term interests at heart.

“Arsene has a contract until the end of the season. Any decisions will be made by us mutually and communicated at the right time in the right way.”