LONDON - Arsenal's new chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, may have worked in U.S. soccer for the past 14 years but he grew up on the English game and will not try to make a "Disneyfied version" of the north London club. "This is an Englishman who grew up with the game, who has a deep understanding of Arsenal football club," Gazidis, who lived in England from the age of four, told the Premier League side's TV station after his appointment was announced on Wednesday. "It's essential if Arsenal is going to be successful that its traditions be respected. This is not going to be an American coming with no understanding of Arsenal looking to make it into a Disneyfied version of Arsenal Football Club." Gazidis, who said Arsenal's self-sustaining business model was key to the club's future, will be heavily involved on the financial side of any transfer dealings. Although born in South Africa, Gazidis grew up in England and studied law at Oxford University. He was twice given an Oxford award ("Blue") for playing against Cambridge University at Wembley Stadium in 1984 and 1985. For six years, he worked in London as a lawyer, living a few hundred yards from Arsenal's old stadium Highbury. TRANSFER DEALINGS In 1994 he moved to the United States to help build the brand new Major League Soccer (MLS), which was developed after the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. and in which England midfielder David Beckham now plays for the LA Galaxy. Gazidis, 44, has worked there ever since, rising to his current position as MLS deputy commissioner. He is expected to get heavily involved in transfers, having been responsible for all signings in the past 13 years in the MLS, where players are contracted centrally. Chairman Peter Hill-Wood told Arsenal TV "a man with football experience is very important. He (Gazidis) certainly fills that gap very well." Hill-Wood added that the new CEO, who starts his new job in January, "will get on very well with (manager) Arsene (Wenger) and will handle all the financial side, technical side of player signing". Gazidis said he had "tremendous times" in the MLS but was glad to leave it growing and attracting new revenue streams. "This was not a question of being unhappy with where I was, it was a question of receiving an offer that was too exciting, too good to turn down." "The great thing about Arsenal, and one of the things that really makes it unique, is it has been run to sustain itself. It's not dependent on an outside investor to continue to pump money in year after year," he added.
26 November 2008
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