Ivan Gazidis Q&A: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Some brief notes on Ivan’s Q&A last night. The evening went like this:

7:00pm – in we go to the Royal Oak suite in the North Bank Club Level. Handed a free drink voucher on entry. Much milling around and chatting. Various stands in place with display of new home kit and other commercial kind of stuff. The keen ones already sitting in the seats in front of a small podium with two chairs.

7:30 – Ivan and Dan Roebuck arrive on stage and Dan introduces a video showing some highs and lows from the season (nothing from the domestic cups).

7:37-ish – Dan introduces Ivan, who says some brief opening remarks, including that these sessions are important and will continue.

7:40 – first question: What’s Ivan’s view of the whole season? Ivan then talked for over 20 minutes, mostly very coherently, but without telling us anything much. What came over strongly was that he believes FFP will work. He said clubs themselves are crying out for it, so it will – but if it doesn’t, then basically we’re all buggered, apart from whoever has the richest owner at the time, and there is always someone richer round the corner. If we wait three years and FFP hasn’t worked, we’ll think of a new plan.

8:05-8:35 – ten more questions in total. Firstly RvP – see answer given on Arsenal.com on Tuesday, which was virtually repeated word for word.

Transfers – lessons have been learnt from last year, but it wasn’t such a shambles as people think (yes it bloody was!).

We need some new players, Ivan, do you agree? – First hesitation in any answer at this point. Answer then veered off to say that (as we know) AW always comes out in support of the team, no matter how appallingly bad they have been, and it is tempting for the Board to brief the press against the manager sometimes, to show understanding with the position of fans who don’t believe a word of what AW is saying. But they’re not going to do that.

Fifth question: Our wage structure is a bit stupid: discuss. Answer: it’s not stupid, it’s different; we need to increase revenue in a responsible way to pay for the players we want; we need to be as efficient as possible, and that can be improved – all of which Ivan has said for as long as I can remember him saying anything. But apparently our wage inefficiencies are not as bad as most. I’d beg to differ on that point. Only Man City and Chelsea are demonstrably less efficient, because they can afford to be and it matters not one jot.

A question on the effect of FFP and whether Usmanov should be invited on to the Board. Ivan answered this by waffling a bit about how all the Board are long-term fans (though obviously Stan isn’t) and it’s important to avoid any conflict, maintain unity, etc etc. He didn’t mention Usmanov by name in the answer, though the implication was clear. At some point, may have been here, he also mentioned again how all the employees of Arsenal are big fans with emotional attachment – which they’re not.

More FFP: If Arsenal are in favour of it so strongly, why sell players to clubs who are financially doped? I think the answer was on the lines of shrugging shoulders and “Well, what can you do?”, but to be honest I was put off by his digression onto the topic of Cesc, where he said that however much we got for him from Barcelona it wouldn’t be enough to replace him because he was world class. Well pardon my logic, but if we got a fair world class price for him we could have afforded another world class player to replace him! But he admitted that Cesc had us over a barrel. Which we all knew, though some Arsenal supporters still seem to worship Cesc.

Next: Why is the club’s PR so bad? IG: Well I agree it’s not great, but we’re misrepresented. Sometimes that’s true. I could come up with a conspiracy theory here . . . Oh no, I won’t bother, it’s been done. Moving swiftly on.

Are we going to get some better sponsorship deals for kit and shirt sponsor when the deals run out? IG: Oh yes, it’ll be great. Commercial deals are really going well. Five year plan, etc. By the way, new kits will last two years again from now (and I think you’ll find I was first on twitter to announce that the new home kit would be ours for two years – yay, go me! ITK). However, as we’ve got two new kits again this year, does that mean the purple away kit is also going to last two years? We’ll see. Ivan was very proud of this two-year kit announcement, even though we seem to have had at least two new kits a year for ages.

Why are we so crap at contracts? For useful effective players they’re too short, but Diaby’s goes on forever. IG: Contracts are always difficult, but we’re on the way to getting it right.

Why are away tickets so hard for silver members to get? IG: Because we’re a popular club.

There was also an AST question: IG spoke in support of supporter shareholders when he arrived at Arsenal, but since the takeover this has changed. Can he reiterate his support for Fanshare, custodianship and supporter ownership?

“We continue to be supportive of it [Fanshare].” Really? How?

Ivan then said that he wanted to engage with all fans equally, whether shareholders, season ticket holders, casual fans watching on TV, or presumably any bloke he sees in the street wearing a red tie and a white shirt. So now it’s no longer important to him or Arsenal that they have any other shareholders than S Kroenke. Not only do they not want to talk to Usmanov, they don’t see any other shareholder as important either.

Dan Roebuck then wrapped up, and Ivan said he’d be glad to talk to anyone at the bar. He didn’t get that far, though, because he was besieged on the podium, and about ten minutes later there was an announcement that it was shortly time to “clear the venue”.

@DarrenArsenal1 managed to get through the scrum and get in a question on the rights issue, which Ivan with his impeccable reverse logic said was a waste of time as it led only to further escalation of the spending arms race. This reiterates the position we already knew – as in fact did almost every comment of the evening.

I know Ivan’s in a difficult position with an absent owner and a manager who had so much power before Ivan arrived that there’s nothing he can do to impose himself. On the other hand I’m sure the £1.5m remuneration is some comfort.

I feel I should congratulate Ivan and Arsenal for having these sessions, but on the other hand, what do we learn? It’s good for Ivan to mingle with real supporters and feel some emotion from them, but ultimately his actions speak louder than words. And I think we’re all still waiting for some more actions.

Twitter: @AngryOfN5


17 thoughts on “Ivan Gazidis Q&A: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

  1. Here at our beloved Arsenal a very serious disease is rapant. It’ called ‘talk the talk’ and has claimed Ivan Gazidis. The cure is said to be ‘walk the walk’. It’s extremely infectious and affects all around with serious symptoms of boredom. You can tell Gazidis’s infection is serious as he wears a grey suit and believes he is the best man for the job. Delusions like this are common. His best treatment is to do a little ‘walk the walk’. Top football doctors say if he ‘walks the walk’ and buys some players the boredom symptom will lift immediately. Other say he should ‘walk the walk’ straight out the door as he is too infectious.

  2. What exactly were you hoping to hear Phil? That Arsenal were inviting the AST on the board so they could have a say in every transfer, every wage contract, every commercial deal the club is considering? For what was labelled as a ‘supporter’ group session, there was only one fan-related question – the availability of away tickets.

    More pertinent than prodding Ivan on Usmanov, Diaby and Robin van Persie would have been to ask Ivan how Arsenal can engage the millions of fans around the world. If the questions in this annual Q&A had more to do with fan’s concerns and footballing issues, I think fans like us may have learnt more. As it is, this turned out to be a cocktail party for small shareholders and not at all the supporters’ Q&A it was billed to be.

    Maybe I am being rather harsh here. I am sure the AST mean well – just not sure fans should be getting into boardroom politics and wage discussions.

  3. Another point actually. Arsenal claim to be a moral club, or at least like to foster that image. Maybe in Highbury days that was true. We have a man with nearly 30% of the shares, Usmanov, who has little or no say in the club. He cannot get on the board yet has invested millions. How moral is that. The scurrying to keep him at bay is so obvious. The claim is he could cause instability. Actually that shake up would be energetic. It is what this club needs. What is wrong with board members having different opinions. That is the ‘health’ that causes growth. Do we have to wait until there is a revolution. Every board should have many creative ideas. Now I do not know Usmanov at all. Maybe I would dislike him. But I am moral and do we treat him fairly? No. Are Arsenal in reality more moral than Chelsea for instance? I don’t think so. The same selfishness, and narcissism pervade our board, who are seemingly defensive towards the fans rather than gregarious towards them.

    • I agree with some of what you say, but Usmanov has so far ‘invested’ purely for his own benefit. There’s nothing particularly great about that.

      • So what has Kroenke invested for, to give us joy? No! Listen there is a reality in the world. If it looks like a cow, acts like a cow, tastes like a cow…it is a cow. Kroenke has let us down. We are falling. I have supported this team for 54 of my 63 years and I know what I see and this is the first year I have complained. How do you know Usmanov is in it for himself? How will you know that until he is on the board and can prove himself? If he put some energy in the club, and injects some moderate cash and we move forwards will you accuse him of being selfish? I would rather that type of selfishness than the stulted non-creative mess we are in now with, club collecter, Kroenke, at the helm. Maybe you are being manipulated a bit more than you realise, and are unaware of it. Before you critisise Usmanov, give him a chance. Kroenke has obviously failed.

      • You were saying it was not ‘moral’ to keep Usmanov out because of his investment. That’s rubbish, it’s nothing to do with morality. All I’m saying is that so far both Kroenke and Usmanov have both invested for exactly the same purpose – their own benefit. I’d support Usmanov being represented on the Board, I don’t support him becoming sole owner.

      • Phil if you examined yourself you would find much of what you in your life is for your own benefit and pleasure. That is no way an insult. It’s the sad human condition……narcisissim (although at times human bravery and compassion surprise). Look at human history at each level. I do not exclude myself from that.
        Yes it is morality. If you owned 30% of a company, and were the second largest shareholder would you expect a say in that company. If you owned 30% of a company would you feel you had a right to have some sway in that company. Come on. In real truth it is fear and the wish for power that stops Usmanov being allowed on the board. Because Usmanov is one of the Oligarchs he is immediately viewed with suspicion. Surely we should judge him on his performance and what he does for the club. You are a little to quick in judging him and too dismissive of the morality involved. You may end up right, his aims may be tainted, but you cannot judge him until he has shown this and failed. We should be officially listening to him. We are not talking about Usmanov owning the whole club, but having a say for his money. There is no implication that he be the sole owner in what I write. We have to invest money in our product, football and players, as every other successful company does. This club has become a monolithic throwback and under that structure cannot succeed.

      • Rubbish Steve, I am a selfless philanthropist who makes Mother Theresa look like Simon Cowell.
        I guess we have a different definition of the word ‘morality’, but I agree with you, let’s see what Usmanov offers. Just don’t give him the whole cake and hope for the best, as that’s a very short term view.

  4. i asked the first question, he didnt give me a reply just waffle and same old, FFP & new kit deal will let us compete, bottom line the company is really really well run like m&s, ivan is a fantastic professional, we should be very proud of our football club, our stadium our training ground, the whole thing, its a thing of beauty… BUT the football team is a total shambles, every supporter who goes home and away like me can see, when the team is announced and ramsey is in we all know whats going to happen he does nothing and its like playing with ten men, we all know without arteta nobody bosses the midfield, we all know gervinho is awful, we all know walcott does not look up often enough, we all know we have nothing on the bench, we all know that the other team is going to score very soon…. and on and on…. then the final whistle goes at the hawthorns and we all go thank fuck for that dodgy keeper, they didnt sack avb earlier and capello for turning harrys head, with brendan at anfield if we dont keep rvp & sign the players we need we could finish 8th but if we do then we could go all the way… ball is firmly in ivans court, he believes totally now he has to deliver

  5. Its always same old story arsenal fans keep having, how long wil arsenal leaves on other club shadows? Its fustrating to all arsenal fan

  6. Having followed this on Twitter last night and reading the various reports on the evening with Ivan, the question has to be asked – what is the real value in it? Many people congratulate the CEO for doing a face to face with the fans and yes, if he really imparted information that was not regurgitated from the same old nonsense we have heard for the past several seasons, then it would be valuable.

    As it is this whole session seems to be a sop to the fans. It appears that they throw us a few crumbs and we are meant to feed off of them knowing full well whatever is going on behind the scene will never be discussed with us in detail. Nor should they have to go into detail, but surely if they are going to stage manage these sessions then at least come with a few bits of genuine news that gives us some confidence that at board level these guys understand the concerns of the people who pay for the whole shebang to keep going.

  7. As long as wenger makes the money, Kroenke dont care a damn about what sh*t if the team doesnt win anything. That’s why gazidiz talks about kids as Arsenal’s future???

  8. Same cock and bull different year. Clubs going now where fast. Everything moves so slowly at arsenal. And we all know RVP is gone its just a matter of when.

  9. It is clear that Mr Gazdis is caught between a powerful and rigid board and a manager who had more power when he came in as you said!If FFP doesn’t kick in, i shudder to think what we would do.we would again go back years and other clubs who have contingency plans would take the lead!!

  10. I’m surprised that so many intelligent people decided to waste their evening. Having been present at the Q&A at the AISA AGM at the start of the season it was quite obvious that Ivan is a smooth talker who can use a thousand words to describe nothing in particular.

    But, as Maverick asked, what did you really expect? Arsenal is a company worth £1bn and a turnover around £200m. There is no way that the board is going to divulge its policy to all and sundry just because they own a bit of a share and pay to watch the team.

    Would you go to a Tesco AGM and expect Philip Clarke to let everyone present know Tesco’s strategy for the next 3 years? Can you imagine if Sainsbury and Asda each bought a Tesco share and then stood up at the AGM and demanded a say in running the company?

    There might just as well as have been 3,000 people at the meeting last night but you are nothing until you are willing to wrest 32,110 shares out of Silent Stan’s grubby mitts.

    Arsenal is a business whose objective is to make money. That is the way it has been for 119 years. They carry out their business in the entertainment industry. We just happen to be emotionally tied to the company whereas those that own the company aren’t.

    You just have to accept that they don’t care about us any more – we are nothing in the grand scheme of things. Just ask any Cardiff City fan.

    I suggest that you give up your season ticket and watch all the games on foreign streams on the internet. At least that way you are not pissing your money away watching a bunch of overpaid prima donnas and making Stan richer.

    That sound you can hear is David Danskin, William Jackson and Jack Humble turning in their graves.

  11. Can I just add that the next time that Stan sends out his stooge the best course of action is for everyone to get together and arrange for just one person to turn up. And that person’s role will be to take a picture of Ivan’s face. Priceless.

  12. Phil,

    Did Ivan actually tell us anything that we didn’t already know ?

    I feel there is too much emphasis by the club that the FFP will benefit us.

    I like this blog and IMO one can draw a definite line between the younger and older contributers by their comments.

    There is no quick fix going to happen at the club.

    I look forward to read Wenger’s autobiography one day as I think he shields the BoD 24/7 and for that reason alone he will never be sacked.AW has a vision to eventually make way to someone with everything in place to take over. Not sure if it is that simple.

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