This is a transcript of the interview with Ivan Gazidis following the announcement of Arsenal’s half year results on 27/02/2012. The video is available free to all fans on Arsenal.com – see the link to the Arsenal Player at the bottom. It is copyright Arsenal FC and I’ve only transcribed it here to benefit fans there is no intention to breach any copyright.
Q: Ivan, you’ve announced the financial results for the 6 months to the end of November today, what’s your assessment of the overall situation?
Ivan Gazidis: Well, first and foremost I think it’s important to acknowledge, that the most important thing for this football club, the most important thing for our fans, and the most important thing for the board and the people that work at the club is how we do on the pitch. The reason we talk about financial results at all – twice a year, we’re very transparent, we publish our accounts – is because it’s the finances that provide the platform for the on field success. And we are healthy from a financial standpoint. All of the money that the club generates is available to be reinvested into the club and into the team. And that’s why these financial figures are important but I’d never want to say they are the most important thing. They’re not. They are the platform for what we want to do on the field.
Q: How much money is available for the manager to spend?
IG: We have a healthy cash balance of £115m at the half year. But it’s important to understand that not all of that money is available to invest in transfers. The reason for that is that we have running costs during the year. Although we get a lot of our money upfront through season ticket renewals, we have running costs of the club – players salaries and so on – so that amount goes down during the year. At the same time we also have to keep something in reserve, in case things don’t go our way. Having said all of that, there is money available. We don’t talk about an exact figure and there is a very good reason why we don’t put an exact figure on that – because it would impact our negotiating position with other clubs and that would mean we wouldn’t be able to do what we want to do as efficiently as we want to do it. But we do have money that’s available. We have to invest efficiently. We have to do it sensibly. We don’t have the kind of money that other clubs have. But we have enough I believe if we do it well to be able to compete at the very highest levels of the game and we’ve got a manager who’s got a fantastic track record over time of getting those types of decisions mostly right.
Q: Would the situation change if we failed to qualify for the Champions League next season?
IG: Well the most important aspect of the Champions League is the sporting one, and that’s what the club is focussed on. We’ve got a fantastic record in the Champions League. We have been there for the last 14 years, and in the last 12 years we have qualified out of the group phase of the Champions League. It’s a really consistent good record of success and an expectation level around the club that we are in that competition every year. At the same time we can’t gear our entire financial model around that expectation because that would place the club in jeopardy if we didn’t qualify. So we have always got to keep something in reserve, in case things don’t go our way, and I can assure fans that we are able to be resilient to reinvest in the squad if things didn’t go our way and if we didn’t end up qualifying for the Champions League so that we would be able to get back into the competition in the following year.
Q: Away from the financial side are you concerned that non qualification for the Champions League will impact your ability to retain and attract players?
IG: Well, first of all we are very focussed on qualifying for the Champions League next year. That’s a priority now and we still remain confident that we will be able to do that and I know the players are incredibly dedicated to that cause and you will see their commitment coming through, through the rest of the season. In terms of players selecting clubs based on Champions League I think there’s [are] very few clubs in the world that you would go to ahead of Arsenal in terms of consistently being there so I don’t believe it affects our ability to attract top players. In fact if anything our Champions League record is a fantastic advertisement for the club and a reason to come to the club and the fact that we have a healthy financial platform means that we can continue as we look forward to consistently be competing at the very top of the game and in the Champions League looking forward as well. So I don’t see that adversely impacting our ability to attract players or retain the top players that we have.
Q: But the fans are asking why the Club is not spending big to avoid the possibility of missing qualification?
IG: Well as I’ve said we do spend all of the money that we generate. We do invest it in the squad. This past summer we spent £75m on new signings and on new contracts for current players – signing players like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta, Andre Santos, Gervinho, and others. We have to be efficient in the way that we spend our money because we don’t have the kind of money to spend that some of our competitors are currently spending in the market place. That means we’ve got to be very thoughtful about it. We have to spend sensibly. But we certainly will spend the money that we have. We’ve got a manager who has got a terrific track record over time. That doesn’t mean we get every decision right – we don’t. But we do get the majority of them right and that’s been one of the secrets to Arsenal’s success over a long period of time. And as I’ve said we will spend the money that the club generates on our playing staff and the better that we can do that, the more efficiently we can do that, the better we can manage our player pool, the more successful we will be. I’m convinced we have the funds to be able to compete at the top of the game. And football is moving in this direction: football clubs are moving towards more sustainable models. UEFA is mandating that they do that, and they are doing it anyway. And you see the results when some clubs live outside their means can be disastrous. So we feel that as we look forward, the next 5 years or so of Arsenal’s development will be very, very positive provided we can do the job well in terms of how we use the money that we have to invest.
Q: Finally, there is a lot of external noise around the team and the manager at the moment. What is your view on this?
IG: Well, we hear the noise. We understand the concern of the fans. We know that there are issues. We know we are not where we want to be. But I can tell you that this team, our manager, the players are absolutely united against what we have to do for the rest of the season, which is to finish in the top four. That’s not out of our hands – it’s very much in our hands. We have had unbelievable support from our travelling fans: you go away to Sunderland, away to Milan this week. Our supporters have put aside the questions, put aside the doubts, put aside the differences of opinion and got behind the team. And if that can happen from now until the end of the season, I know that we can achieve Champions League qualification again for next year. That we can rebuild and regroup in the summer and come back strong next year. But that will come through “Victory Through Harmony”: the strength of this club has always been its unity and our fans and our players need to come together in this fight for the rest of the season.
It’s available for all fans to watch on Arsenal Player here http://player.arsenal.com/schedule/day/2012-02-27