Gazidis: Substance or Spin?

You have probably seen Ivan Gazidis popping up in various places in the last week giving interviews as though his salary depends on it. Which it doesn’t. But a bit of good publicity never goes amiss, and the accounts are about to be published, and a transfer window profit has been made and needs to be justified, so why not sit in front of some friendly journos and put the world of Arsenal to rights?

Here’s Ivan sitting in some very boring and grey location, as pictured by the London Evening Standard, and lucky for him he got a VERY friendly journalist to talk to in James Olley, Chief Football Correspondent. I am also amused by the way the headline is arranged – the bit on the next page said ‘That is absolute rubbish’, but opinions may differ on the truth of that disclaimer!

The headline is down to the sub-ed of course, but in the interview itself James Olley decided not to challenge Ivan very much on some of his statements, even if they are questionable at best. Olley has also got a few facts mixed up.

He starts by saying that Arsenal’s “self-sustainability” – and I’ve got to immediately stop him there, because it’s not self-sustainability, it’s just ‘sustainability’, or a ‘self-sustaining’ model and it winds me up no end when people say self-sustainability – anyway, Arsenal’s “self-sustainability has rendered them impotent when battling for players,” he says. Has it? No it bloody hasn’t. The manager has decided that firstly he must pay everyone in the squad an almost equal wage, wasting tens of millions of pounds a year, and secondly he doesn’t spend all the money available, which makes Arsenal look impotent when in fact they shouldn’t be. We can’t compete with a couple of clubs, that’s true. But only a couple.

He goes on: “The only way Arsenal can compete and stay faithful to their financial model is by increasing their revenue.” No, they could spend all the money they’ve got for a start, and then concentrate on spending it more efficiently. Even if you think it would be impossible for Wenger to be more efficient, it’s perfectly possible to compete better by SPENDING THE MONEY THAT IS SITTING IN THE BANK.

A bit later, Ivan is quoted as saying, “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. This is the most ambitious club I know.” Just to repeat that last bit: Ivan says, “This is the most ambitious club I know.” Not a shred of evidence is provided for this statement, and worse than that Olley doesn’t even question it! Yes, Arsenal built a new stadium and that was certainly ambitious – albeit taking advantage of Arsenal’s fortunate geographical location, which meant the old stadium was luckily worth about 20 times what, say, Liverpool’s is – but what level of ambition is being shown now? All the signs point to lack of ambition lately: net transfer profit, successive captains being sold to domestic or European rivals and NOT EVEN SPENDING ALL THE MONEY AVAILABLE.

Speculating (just a little, I’m not Peter Ridsdale) to accumulate the odd trophy would be ambitious. Sitting on a pile of cash isn’t. Admittedly the lack of spending is not Ivan’s fault, and he would probably be happy to see Wenger get the chequebook out, but he is the one who has to sit there and pretend it’s a good idea. Not that I feel sorry for him, he is paid well enough – including bonuses for . . . er, I’m not sure what exactly, but clearly not for winning trophies or increasing commercial revenue. But he has a silent and detached boss 4,000 miles away and a football manager who started doing exactly what he liked as soon as David Dein left the building, and cemented that position further when Danny F departed this mortal coil. Poor Ivan. I guess we all have our cross to bear.

Back to the salaries: “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.” I find this a bit cryptic. Is he talking about the infamous equal pay structure mentioned above? I guess he is. So he’s saying the board would be quite happy to pay any superstars they could attract to Arsenal huge amounts of money – maybe even as much as Arsène himself gets paid – but Arsène doesn’t want to do that (though he doesn’t mind taking it himself).

The piece concludes with this: “Gazidis believes Arsenal stand on the brink of joining United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich as financial giants of the game. Then everything will be in place to provide a framework for domination on the pitch too.” Again this statement isn’t challenged. Gazidis may or may not believe it completely, but is it that simple? He’s relying on FFP working absolutely 100 per cent from the off.

While it’s true that clubs are taking notice of FFP, you can still make losses under it – if you have someone to fund them, like a Sheikh, for example – and still be within the rules. So if Man City make a £30m loss and don’t need to pay £20m interest on their debts (because they don’t have any), then they still have a £50m advantage over Arsenal. So Arsenal need £50m more from commercials or gate money than Man City make in order to be level with them. And Man City’s commercials will probably continue to be at Sheikh’s mates’ rates – £400m for stadium naming rights, yes that’s worth it – while Arsenal scrabble about for relative pennies. So although we have a fair advantage in ticket revenue, we still have a disadvantage everywhere else. How is the self-styled most ambitious club in world football going to address that?

John Pickford (@theN5er) did a quick survey a couple of days ago, publicised on Twitter, about Ivan. The options were a bit tongue in cheek but it went like this:

What did you think of Ivan Gazidis and his latest PR interview with the media?
a – Yes Ivan, I’ve fully bought into your spin, “ambitious” Arsenal are set to dominate for years
b – Cautiously optimistic but waiting to see the fruits of your five-year plan first, Ivan
c – Ivan “Second best isn’t good enough for Arsenal” (we wish) Gazidis talks a good game, but we’ve heard it all before
d – Ivan is an outright schmoozer, in another era you’d find him on the grift
The results were:
a – 7%
b – 35%
c – 42%
d – 17%

Although it was a small sample and the options weren’t entirely serious, it’s notable that a quarter of voters are at one of the extremes. If that can be extrapolated, then a quarter of all Gooners are extremists and the two ends will always be arguing with each other! Sounds about right.

Most occupy the middle ground, but it’s fairly evenly split between those who think it’s all a matter of time till it comes good and those who think something needs to change first.

The thing about football is that as long as you don’t get relegated then every year you get the chance to wipe the slate clean and start again, saying ‘This will be our year’. Most businesses don’t have that luxury. In football, every May there is a moment of truth, but it can largely be forgotten in August with a bit of spin, and we start looking towards the next May. There’s a bigger FFP moment of truth approaching for Arsenal, though. Ivan Gazidis is a great talker, but even he will have trouble talking his way out of it if 2014 delivers nothing. And even James Olley might start asking more probing questions.

Follow me on twitter: @AngryOfN5


24 thoughts on “Gazidis: Substance or Spin?

  1. Totally agree definitely spin. I have been to a few of these supporters meetings and he always starts by saying he is not going to take up too much time and then speaks for half an hour to take pre-empt all the questions, just like parliamentary question time! There is no debate and anything he doesn’t want to talk about is media sensitive.
    Yes we will increase our commercial revenues when the current ones run out but anyone could do that, instead we have employed a load of expensive people to do this and what have they achieved in three years. Apart from the ridiculously large squad size we have now have a massive staff on our books. As fans do we see any benefit, all the board made a fortune out sale to Kroenke do you see anyone giving back.

    • Remember that ‘supergroup’ that Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker formed in 1969, what were they called? Oh yeah, Blind Faith. You remind me of them.

      Also your grammar and punctuation are a disgrace. Good day.

      • Mark, if by ‘get behind your Club’, you mean ‘get behind your team’ you are right and I believe all of us do. If, on the other hand you mean by it ‘get behind Stanley and Ivan’, then you are quite wrong: these are the very people who are ruining Arsenal.

  2. If Ivan Gazidis is a great talker then what is Arsene Wenger who talks way too much even though he hasn,t brought any trophy of any significance to the club
    since 2006 ,but Wenger picks the team to play,not Gazidis,so the buck stops at
    Arsene,s office not the Arsenal board of director,s boardroom?

    • Oh, you think I don’t like Wenger? That is the conclusion you draw, is it? I’ve met Gazidis on several occasions and I’ve met Wenger. I’ve also met Hill-Wood, Lady Nina, Ken Friar, David Dein, Danny Fiszman, I’ve even met Stan Kroenke. Whether I like or dislike any of these people is irrelevant to my views on how well they’re running Arsenal. But perhaps if you want my opinion of Wenger you should read some other posts on this blog, like the one entitled ‘What Arsene Knows’ from July 13, 2012. Here’s a link:

  3. I think “self sustaining club” means pretty much “no sheikh-no russian billionaire-no bored sugar daddy” club. We spend what we get…and yes it might seems insane nowadays but i believe we’re the only team who capable of challenging both manchester teams and chelsea by spending far less than them. And for that credit to Wenger. Yes you can argue the illusive “what if he spends more” but he didnt and thats that.

  4. Like the vast majority of fans (I imagine), I haven’t met any of these people – but on the basis of what we’ve seen of them, heard from them and watched them do, I think we can be fairly certain we know their calibre. In my view, Illy, Ivan and Stanley are not the sort of people most of us (I imagine) would care to spend much time with. They seem to me to be entirely alien to what (at any rate for the older fans) Arsenal stands for. Ironic that this should be true of a Hill-Wood: his forbears must be turning in their graves – but this is the man who ‘sold’ Stanley to the shareholders as the ideal owner (after earlier telling us he wasn’t the sort of person we want around here) – thereby (one concludes) hanging on to his job as Chairman. Stanley – a businessman with a string of other sports outfits – stands at the opposite pole of what lies at the heart of Arsenal: custodianship. The duty to pass the club to your successor in better shape that when you took it over. The Silent One doesn’t need to tell us; he’s in it to make a profit, plain and simple. As for Ivan, every US corp has one: a grey two-dimensional spin doctor to divert criticism while they get on with the main business: making themselves money.
    Lastly, In defence of James Olley, I suspect that (in true football journo fashion) he is setting Ivan up for the kill. Certainly hope so.

  5. This article is so full of hyperbole, cheap-shots, half-¨truths¨and the usual regurgitated bollocks that is floating around among the AAA sewer that it beggars belief.
    1) Noone has any idea what is available or not since nobody has access to AFC’s finances other than the BoD, Wenger and administratiors, and they’re definitely NOT talking so you may have met everyone at AFC Phil but you don’t know more than any of us about what money is available. SwissRambler has shown AFC’s possible financials but even he admits its all apeculation.
    2)All the signs point to lack of ambition? So buying Podolski,Cazorla and Giroud was an exercise in lethargy and defeatism? You really mean your ambition is being ignored by the BoD and Gazidis! Wahhhhhhhhh Phil wants a shiny trophy and will call everyone losers if he doesn’t get one!
    3) Arsene gets paid to produce attractive, enjoyable and competitive Football at AFC and to keep us in the top competitions, in the top 4 and maybe win something against all the big spenders. He NEVER ever guarantees a trophy or title since he knows, far more clearly than you AAA whiners, what the process requires. If you are unhappy with the results go find someone to replace him……you’ll be looking for a very long time.
    4) Your article is a sad reflection of the tiny minority of so-called Gooners who blame Gazidis, the BoD and Wenger for our oft-repeated ¨trophyless 7 years¨ but who are AAA and anti-Wenger Goons whose principle purpose in life is to denigrate, ridicule and diminish Arsenal and Wenger’s achievements. You are definitely a prime candidate for LeGrove member of the month title….I hear they have a nice pewter trophy for the most vitriolic attacks on all things Arsenal.

      • It is very easy to parrot the AAA, anti-Wenger line and make all sorts of spurious claims about what YOU ¨think¨are the motives behind the BoD, Gazidis and Wenger’s perceived strategy. You haven’t a shread of proof…just a firm conviction that you and the other Wenger-hating¨supporters¨ know the ¨ truth¨, regardless of what others say or also firmly believe. However don’t let your lack of facts and your profound ignorance interfere with your prejudice.
        Personally, this dialectic does nothing to improve our cherished Club and we have very little influence over the Board,Wenger or Gazidis, we are best to enjoy the great Football we are seeing for the moment until the next opportunity to whine about Arsenal presents itself..

  6. You spin me right round , right round a record baby..

    the waffle I get as we’ve heard it all before, but as an intelligent man in an image based society I’m scratching my head at what sort of message Ivan though he was conveying in that pose and situ? Did he think it conveyed honesty and gravitas? Was he thinking ‘best not get myself pictured in my plush office, after all the last thing the fans want to see with 50mil in the bank is me sat at my Viscount Linley desk and a backdrop of Delecroix’s ‘Liberty leading the people’

  7. I put this to you all…

    What do you think Man Utd have over us?

    I’ll tell you, commercial revenue, that’s it.

    And how did they get such a high commercial revenue, by investment.

    Man Utd invested heavily in their IT and HR departments back in the 90’s, which set them apart from the rest of Europe let alone the premier league. You see potential commercial partners want a return on their investment with the club. Tottenham, Fulham and even Stoke can offer a few numbers as to an approximate return calculation. What sets big clubs apart is their ability to offer a more value to these commercial partners and therefore land bigger commercial values than the rest of the league i.e. Man Utd.

    Arsenal are world renown for class and their self sustainability model. This alone is unique as no other club really has this to offer. A good commercial team will utilise this and secure good growth BUT a great commercial team will combine this with our international fan base, Kroenkes american network and ever growing Internet presence (Arsenal TV) and achieve SUBSTANTIAL commercial growth. Substantial enough to secure our place amongst the higher echelon of European clubs.

    There is no doubt we spend our money more efficiently than the clubs with higher revenue, well the facts actually prove it. Few people would argue that we can match it with the Manchester clubs (our 1-0 victory over the champions is proof), now have some foresight and think of this. Once our commercial deals are revised (I predict at least 35% growth here) and the stadium is paid off that will greatly increase the funds available in the transfer market. This in itself gives us a solid foundation to build off without platini’s FFP which WILL be implemented one way or another.

    Once the spanish banks are unable to fund Real Madrid and Barcalona’s rediculous spending La Liga will go a huge restructure which will no doubt finally see a even TV broadcast rights between clubs…bye bye Spanish super powers. Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan will get board and when FFP make them spend only what they earn they will abandon their clubs (Malaga anyone), The Glaziers will bleed Man Utd dry using their revenue to pay off their debt by the time their done even Tottenham will be in the Chapions league, ha ha.

    Whether you glory hunter fans who want instant success believe it or not the board and Ivan Gazidis are the exact people we need to take Arsenal not only where we need to go as a club but where over priced european football need to go as an association.

    I prey the board are disciplined enough to stick to their guns because when this days comes (and it will come) look out Europe Arsenal will be the next European superpower.

    • Stan as Superman and Ivan as Batman? The evil moneymen of Madrid and Manchester put to the sword? The football world bowing its head? Platini tossing bouquets? You should stop reading all those DC comics.

      • Firstly I hate comic books…

        Secondly the prices in European football are skyrocking higher than the GDP all the whole European union combined. Jobs are being cut regions are fighting off recession and you think that football won’t feel the effects. Sure you have a few board billionaires but billionaires don’t become rich by loosing money, they will have their fun and drop them.

        Finally all business models have to innovate to remain competitive, with the drop in the economy over there football will feel it and will have to stop this ridiculous spending. Do some research the FA has been looking at brining in a league specific salary cap/spend what you earn system in, there are too many people loosing to much money for rules not to be bought in…like it or not it’s the reality of it all

      • The FA may be looking at options, but they can’t bring in anything that contravenes European law, which wage caps do. Of course the EU may collapse, then we can go back to ruling ourselves.

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