Gazidis: Time for clubs to control spending

MANCHESTER - Football needs to take a close look at how the game is run and control its spending or it will be unable to exploit its huge potential for growth, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said on Tuesday.

Gazidis, addressing delegates at the Soccerex business forum, said he welcomed the new initiative from European football's governing body UEFA designed to stop clubs being indebted to each other, but clubs themselves need to be more responsible about how they run their finances.

"We are an industry that creates enormous revenues and for us to have the problems means the game is in need of self-examination and must cause us to ask some serious questions of ourselves," he said.

"The fundamental issue is spending. It's not a complicated business in general but the issue we all face is: do we have the courage and the fortitude to control our spending in what is a fairly irrational environment? If we can manage that there is no reason why anybody can't have a very sustainable, long term stable business in football."

Welcoming moves by UEFA to impose stricter regulations on clubs, which has the backing of the influential European Clubs Association (ECA), Gazidis said that tighter rules and better run clubs would also attract "more sensible owners" to the game.

"I think that we are in an industry that has incredible potential for growth.

"That's an extraordinary thing to say in this economic environment following the expansion we have seen in revenues in the past few years."

Despite figures issued last week by UEFA showing that Europe's top clubs had total debts of 7 billion euros, of which England's Premier League clubs contributed 3.8 billion towards that total, Gazidis said football was not in crisis.

"Crisis would be if you cannot see the way forward. I think we can all see the way forward and enormous potential for the game but there are serious issues we have to address within the game so that we are not just creating revenue, but we are also creating value, that is the challenge."

According to the annual survey by accountancy firm Deloitte released on Tuesday, the combined revenues of the top 20 clubs grew by 26 million euros to over 3.9 billion euros in 2008-09, amid the global economic downturn.

Gazidis added: "Soccer is still very attractive to new owners and with the new UEFA rules on debt in place I think we will get even more, sensible, responsible owners in the future."