Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has ordered all big game hunting content be removed from a new online TV service run by one of his companies after a wave of criticism.
Opposition leader and Gunners fan Jeremy Corbyn had joined animal welfare groups in attacking the MyOutdoorTV app after it was launched in the UK.
The streaming service is run by Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG), part of Mr Kroenke’s company Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, and provides shows about hunting, shooting and fishing for a subscription fee of 9.99 US dollars (£7.50) a month.
On Friday Jim Liberatore, OSG’s president and chief executive, said it was removing content that included big game hunting, on Mr Kroenke’s orders.
He said: “In the past few days, there has been significant public attention to a small portion of programming on our MyOutdoorTV app that contains content associated with hunting certain big game animals.
“While many on both sides of this issue have made their voices heard, and this content is only available through paid subscriptions, Stan Kroenke has directed us to remove all content related to those animals in light of the public interest.”
Mr Liberatore sought to distance Arsenal from the furore, saying that as a separate company “we deserve no credit when an Arsenal striker scores a goal. Arsenal deserves no criticism when we offer a programme with which some disagree”.
He added that while the channel’s content decisions were made “independently of our parent company… in this one instance, Mr Kroenke directed us to make the changes”.
Mr Liberatore added: “He has a decades-long track record of environmental stewardship, working with conservationists, hydrologists, microbiologists and others to responsibly manage habitat and enhance wildlife preservation.
“We also take conservation seriously, and dedicate programming to this issue and to anti-poaching efforts specifically.”
As an Arsenal fan, I'm disgusted. 'Blood sport' is a contradiction and there should be no place for it. This is not sport. https://t.co/2k4NJEFFAB— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) August 1, 2017
On Tuesday Mr Corbyn said he was “disgusted that Stan Kroenke is involved in such a brutal, unethical and unnecessary activity”.
The 70-year-old mogul owns more than 67% of Arsenal, as well as the Colorado Rapids Major League Soccer team and NFL franchise the Los Angeles Rams.
The League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the U-turn on Friday.
Chief operating officer Philippa King said: “Launching a TV channel which glorifies bloodsports was never going to be a good idea in a nation of animal lovers.
“We asked Mr Kroenke to cancel his plan to show trophy hunting and that’s what he has done, so we thank him for it.
“Whether the decision was taken because his eyes were opened to the suffering of animals involved in trophy hunting, or because he realised it was a PR disaster for Arsenal football club, I don’t know.
“Hopefully it was the former – the world is turning against cruel sports like trophy hunting, fox hunting and ‘game’ bird shooting, so we hope Stan joins the majority in focusing on caring for and protecting precious species like lions and elephants and stops indulging the bloodthirsty minority who get their kicks from killing them.”
Will Travers, president of Born Free and also an Arsenal fan, said: “He clearly recognised the overwhelming strength of British public feeling on this issue (including among Arsenal supporters) and for that we thank him.
“Anyone who has a beating heart would be sickened by images of grown men and women celebrating the killing of wild lions and other iconic species for ‘fun’, and such images have no place on our TV screens.”