arsenal self sufficient

Gunners CEO confident of riding out financial crisis

February 19, 2009

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis maintains his club's commitment to remaining self-sufficient is as resolute as ever, as the Gunners seek to ride out the credit crunch.

The investment firm co-owned by Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov recently increased their stake in the Premier League club to just over 25%.

But Red and White Holdings - who first invested in Arsenal two years ago when they bought the 14.65% stake of former vice-chairman David Dein - insist they are ``committed long-term investors and supporters of the club'', rather than seeking to mount a hostile takeover.

Arsenal's board of directors have always remained steadfast in their determination not to sell out, signing up to a ``lockdown'' agreement, although the departure of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith in December saw her 15.9% holding no longer subject to that.

Gazidis is in no doubt of the importance of the club being able to control their own finances from income generated through success on the pitch at Emirates Stadium and other marketing streams.

``It is very important to this club that it is run on a self sustaining basis,'' said Gazidis, speaking before the announcement of Red & White Holdings' increase had been made public.

``What that does is release you from the day-to-day pressures of anything that may be happening at board level. The club effectively functions as a club independent of what ownership changes may take place.

``That in itself lends a stability to what we are doing here, so I focus on what the club's needs are and [manager] Arsene [Wenger] is able to do the same.''

Gazidis officially took up his position at the start of January following 15 years with the Major Soccer League in the United States, where he held the position of deputy commissioner since 2001.

The 44-year-old South Africa-born Oxford law graduate, who once lived a stone's throw from Highbury, feels everyone at Arsenal is committed to moving forwards in the same direction.

He said: ``All of the board members I interact with are all very focused on the self-sustaining model. They all believe in it and have the interests of the club at heart.

``I have been very impressed by their commitment to that cause.''

Gazidis added: ``You can never say anything in life with certainty but the uncertainties which surround Arsenal are far less than which surround the world in general these days.''

Despite having only been in his position for a few weeks, Gazidis - who is expected to take over many of the roles formerly undertaken by ex-vice-chairman Dein - has already helped oversee the successful transfer of Russia international Andrei Arshavin, which was finally pushed through on deadline day in a reported £12million deal.

Gazidis maintains funds will be available should the manager wish to strengthen again in the summer but feels the current uncertain economic climate is bound to have an impact on what level some clubs can operate at.

``This has been a club which has always supported Arsene Wenger in what he has wanted to do and we will continue to do that,'' Gazidis said. ``However, I think that the summer transfer market is going to be interesting.

``There will be opportunities out there for all clubs that have managed themselves well. For those that have not, it is going to be a very challenging environment.''

Gazidis believes spiralling transfer fees will ultimately be brought into check.

``I expected that transfer fees would go down and player salaries would go up after (the) Bosman (ruling), and what we have seen is that both have gone up,'' he said.

``At some point the amounts of money that are involved become so large and the pool of owners that can play at that level becomes so small that it is no longer able to sustain itself.

``I think that over some period of time - particularly in this economic environment we are in - we are going to see transfer values become a little bit more rational in relation to player salary.''