Ivan Gazidis met reporters on Wednesday to discuss some of the key issues at Arsenal Football Club. Here's a transcript of the Q&A.
Ivan, you have often argued that Arsenal should be judged by their performance over time?
Clearly the club has been on quite a long journey from the early 2000s when we could have been complacent about our position in the game and took some really significant decisions to push the club forward. That was a very ambitious step for the club and it involved a really bold move.
The club knew in taking that step that it was going to have some challenges along the way. I don't think anybody in the game anticipated the way that salaries would explode over the course of that decade but nevertheless, even in that environment, primarily through Arsène's good judgement, the club has consistently remained at the top of the game.
The overall journey that the club embarked on was to make it one of the leading clubs in the world and to do it in a way that would be sustainable. Not to do it for a moment in the sun but be able to count ourselves in the ranks of the Manchester Uniteds, Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs of this world over the next generation. That's a tremendously difficult thing to envisage, let alone achieve.
Along the way the environment became more difficult and I think Arsène has done an absolutely masterful job within the constraints he has - we are a club that is doing this on its own two feet without an outside benefactor - to make really smart decisions over time. He hasn't got every one correct but broadly fantastic decisions on players, the development on the team, the need to keep the team competing at the top of the game.
We have been in Europe for 15 straight years. We are ranked sixth in Europe by UEFA - those things are taken for granted but they are fantastic achievements through the process of building a stadium and catapulting the club forward.
We are coming to the end of the stadium journey now where some of the commercial deals that we tied into the stadium move, which were fantastic deals for us because they enabled us to get the stadium built, are coming up for renewal. We have got the opportunity as a club to really catapult our revenues forward again.
I am very conscious of the fact that it sometimes sounds like I talk about Arsenal in terms of revenue streams and so on. Partly that's because it's a big part of my job, but really all of this is about football. It's about putting this football club at the top of the football map and in the modern world, you have got to have the revenues to be able to do that. This club has a really simple financial model. I wouldn't call it a business model because it is not like any other business I know or could imagine.
We generate revenue and we reinvest all of that revenue in football. We don't pay dividends, the money doesn't come out of the club. All of the money we make is made available to our manager and he has done an unbelievable job in managing that spend. When we evaluate how well we are doing, I think there are three factors.
Firstly, whether we are able to compete financially at the top of the game. That depends on the environment that we are in which I believe has been somewhat irrational in terms of player spending but is becoming more rational as the game wakes up and demands regulation. We see that in FFP moving at a tremendous rate at UEFA level, and also there is serious discussion happening at the Premier League level domestically. Although there is a lot of scepticism about those chances and we think they are very good for the sustainable environment of the game.
The second element is how much the club can generate within that environment. We try to be responsible in the way we generate revenue but at the same time we look to grow it. As we come to the end of these commercial deals, the opportunity to renew our primary sponsorship deals at a significant increase which will propel us forward as a club in terms of revenue. Revenue is important because, especially under FFP, it determines how much ultimately you can spend on players. Lastly, it is about how efficiently you spend the money. As I have said, we don't take money out of the club.
It is all available to spend on the football but you can waste money very quickly in football and large amounts if you are not careful. We have a manager who has got an outstanding record in making difficult football judgements. It's not all about which players you sign in the transfer market, although that is one element of it, but managing the football club is far more complicated than that. There are many different factors to it: efficient management of player contracts, good talent identification, good talent development, succession planning, the dynamic within the squad, the ability to create something between the players that is more significant than the individual players themselves which insulates you from individual player comings and goings.
All of those elements are thought about extremely deeply in making our contract decisions and those are ultimately decision that are made within the overall financial constraints by Arsène on the basis of his footballing judgement. While we can get into extensive debate about individual decisions - and I would certainly say we don't make mistakes because, like all clubs, we are not perfect in our judgement - the ultimate arbiter of whether you are spending your money efficiently is a very absolute hard judgement which is where did you finish in the Premier League versus your overall spending.
It's far easier to have your performance out-perform your spend for a couple of years because you can make short term decisions that deliver a quick hit but may not be sustainable.
It is far more difficult to out-perform your spend on a consistent mid or long term basis and when you look at what Arsène has done within the overall constraints, he has outperformed our spending every single year he has been manager. It is an extraordinary record and that's why the board have faith and trust in Arsène and will continue to do so.
What is the projection on what commercial deals will do?
In terms of the financial impact on the club, although it isn't represented in concrete, it will be as significant a step forward for the football club from a financial viewpoint as the stadium was in 2005. It's a significant and dramatic football step.
Of every major club, we have the most potential for growth in that area. Already, we are ranked as fifth. I think Chelsea, because of the year they just had, will leapfrog us for a year or so, but once that kicks in on a really sustainable business, it kicks us into the top five clubs in the world with separation from the rest. That's a fairly extraordinary thing.
Our board gets much maligned along the way, but what they don't do is treat the football club as a popularity contest. Everything they do is only for the good of the club. And actually, the way this club has driven itself forward from where it was is something I am slightly in awe of. To be sitting at the top of the game in 2001-02 and make a decision like they made. Let's imagine the two worlds. It's not pie in the sky - it is going to happen.
We will be separated away as one of the top five clubs in the world in revenue, versus had we stayed at Highbury and we stayed with six or seven other clubs in the same ballpark position, we would be in amongst them scrambling somewhere between mid to upper table in financial terms.
That would be the financial constraints he would be operating under. Even he might struggle in that situation. We get accused of a lack of ambition or complacency because apparently the board are only interested in the top four - that is absolute rubbish. To me this is the most ambitious football club I know. To be able to execute the vision is amazing to me.
Traditionally managers and clubs are judged on silverware. We can debate as to whether winning the FA Cup is more important than the top four. But is Arsenal committed to trophies?
It's what we're trying to do. We're trying to win. In fact, we try to do more than that, we try to win with style. We have a certain way of playing football that we take pride in.
So again, it's a high ambition. I know we haven't achieved that in recent years. There's no-one at this football club that doesn't feel the pain of not being able to do that in recent years. But absolutely that's what we're trying to do and we want to do it on a sustainable basis going forward. We're very optimistic about this season, even through the loss of a player as important as Robin van Persie.
We went through some major challenges last season and yet still came near the top of the game. But it's not what we're aiming to do. We're absolutely trying to win silverware and we're trying desperately hard to do it this year.
Presumably having led you through that tough period, you want to see Arsène Wenger lead you through those good time as well?
It's not a sense of sentimentalism, not a reward for our services, it's a belief that we have an incredible manager who loves this club and is the best man to lead us forward.
We're really confident about the direction that the club is heading. We're coming through strongly and we believe we're really well placed. We hope and believe that Arsène will be a part of that as we move forward.
At the same time, as a club, we have to make sure that all of the things that Arsène has brought to the club are enshrined in our DNA to make sure that when the day comes when Arsène decides it's time to hang up your boots - I don't know what the expression is as a manager - that we are in a position to take his ideas and work forward.
The values that Arsène has brought to the club together that the values the club had before Arsène are what will inform us - and I don't want to give any indication that this is happening - and give us the framework as to who might take over from him in the longer term.
He is written into our DNA. He's incredibly fit, has played in some staff games recently. I've watched him on the sidelines in his brogues and he doesn't look too good. But when you put him out on the football field, he is still fit, quick and a good footballer.
He is still fit, ready to go and enthusiastic about the players we've got, particularly the younger players - and often that's the thing that gets him most excited. Which, again, is quite unusual.
It's fantastic to see his endless enthusiasm and I really have learnt from Arsène, and players learn from him as well. We're not dominated by fear and yet we live in an environment in football where fear is really prevalent.
Players feel fear all the time and yet actually Arsène never succumbs in his thinking about players, his thought process and how players can develop to his worst fears. He's always looking forward. He's never governed by fear.
The football club was never governed by fear a long way before Arsène was here, and that's why I think we all get on so well.
I think he could stay on longer, absolutely he could. We haven't discussed it yet but I believe he could. He's fit, 62 years old, he's in fantastic shape and he's as driven as he's ever been, as enthusiastic and excited as ever and I feel he can keep going for a long time.
Can you keep your top players happy and on top contracts at the club in Premier League terms?
I think we have to have a team that is competing at the top of the game, a team which represents modern Arsenal and to do that we've got to manager our player contracts well. We've got to be responsive to the marketplace even when they're governed by factors we can't control.
We give that a lot of thought and broadly we make good decisions that are within the responsible financial capability of the club which is growing, our financial capability is growing.
But we're very disciplined about not making decisions which may jeopardise that and I understand that, at times, that can be frustrating.
But the club is on a really positive path, it's really healthy, we've got a really healthy squad and the foundation and the lifeblood of that is the young players who come through.
You go through the transfer window and there is a near hysterical environment created where the only measure of potential and success is how much a club spends on transfer fees. I don't want to say that's not relevant, it's one of the relevant factors in how a club can succeed.
But a club's success is far far more complicated and multi-layered than how much you spend on transfer fees in a transfer window. Balancing al of those factors is something Arsène does really really well.
Lots of players are on big money throughout the squad. Do you need to restructure to keep the stellar players happy and on big contracts?
We have a wage structure which we think works for us, it's not fixed in stone - we adapt it over time. There are no absolute hard and fast rules. We look at situations not just individually but in the context of the whole, in the context of what we are trying to do. We are adaptive and, in the end, our performance against our spend is judged on the pitch every year and I think we have got an excellent record.
Can you compete like that? Should you be paying more?
We are an incredibly transparent football club. We publish our accounts and they get analysed. I don't think there is a big secret what our financial capability is. We are also very explicit about the fact that we live within our means. There is no great mystery about this. Can we compete at top salary levels? Yes we can, but we have an ethos at the club - the way Arsène expresses it is that it is not about individual players, it is what happens between them.
The way we train, the way we play is all about passing, communication, movement, intelligence, anticipation and technical execution. All of these types of things, it is very much a team ethos. I think it is one of the things that makes us resilient to the loss of an individual player and, over time, we have seen Arsenal lose some really significant players but bounce back strongly.
That's not something that just happens by accident. It doesn't happen by accident that Ian Wright is succeeded by a Thierry Henry is succeeded by an Adebayor is succeeded by a van Persie. It is not just happy coincidence. It is part of the ethos of the club, very much based around a team, very much based around giving young players an opportunity to step up and step forward and show what they can do.
We give a lot of thought to our wage structure. Within an overall constraint, if you are paying four or five players superstar wages, it restricts what you are able to do with other players and there are no hard and fast rules on any of that. We think very very carefully about it and there is a pretty hard and fast measured stick by which you can judge or overall decisions over time.
Can Financial Fair Play work in England and in Europe?
I think the perception of FFP at the moment is lagging behind the reality. I think there is a perception that Michele Platini devised an evil plan in his bath to go after English football. That's just simply not the case.
The FFP proposals were developed by Uefa in very close consultation with the ECA representing clubs all across Europe. An incredible amount of work went into those regulations.
They were endorsed and supported by football clubs. They are not rules coming down on high, they are actually rules the clubs themselves developed in conjunction with Uefa and absolutely support. Not only do we see that at the European level, but we are seeing support for this type of regulation in the Football League, we are seeing very serious discussions within the Premier League about introducing these regulations domestically.
Some form of financial regulation has extremely broad support among the Premier League clubs. So, I would be less optimistic if the rules were not being generated by football clubs themselves.
Football clubs are demanding that football has a more sustainable environment. We have enormous amounts of revenue and increasing revenue being generating by the game. But we still have an environment where all of that money and more than just the additional money that is being generated is being spent. That creates an unsustainable environment. We can see consequences all across the game, in England and overseas.
Clubs are crying out for some kind of stability, some kind of predictability, some kind of regulation that will allow more clubs to compete and more clubs to develop themselves through more than simply on players. Spending on player development, spending of stadiums for example.
All of those sentiments are enshrined in those FFP regulations and I think the closer you get to decision makers in the game, you hear not just an acceptance of those regulations but an endorsement of them and an expectation that they will be strictly enforced. That is the expectation in the game, that is the expectation that Uefa are delivering and increasingly that is what clubs in the Premier League are demanding.
I always have a healthy scepticism but very optimistic that we are going to see football moving into an era of more responsibility that will be really healthy for the game and really healthy for supporters who won't have to have the kind of concerns they have had about the financial health of their football clubs.
And then we can get on to playing the game and that is what we really want to see.
Is it a positive sign that the Premier League clubs seem happy to embrace it and bring in their own FFP rules?
I think it's a result of a realisation of where does all this end? What's the end game in just simply seeing ever increasing, spiralling spending. Many owners are saying, how can I stay involved?
Owners are also finding that they can't find good custodians for their football club to come in. Who would want to get involved in an environment when you are going to have compete and, along the way, probably be vilified. It's not the most attractive proposition.
At the end of the day I think I would rather be buying a season ticket. I do think the way football is moving towards an environment in which you don't have to lose enormous amounts of money, where you can break even means that we are more likely to have more local owners who can be involved. Far more interest from good ownership from around the world.
I think in the longer term that will mean better ownership, more responsible ownership from football clubs. I think fans of the game will benefit from that environment. It's a really healthy development.
I think more and more people are recognising the benefits. It's become mainstream. There are very few voices, very few, who are speaking out about FFP. I'm not even sure I know any. They are in the wilderness at this point. It's going to happen and it is happening faster than people realise.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 13 Sep 2012