LONDON - Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has joined the Premier League club in the midst of a global recession, although you might not realise it if you take a trip to their impressive Emirates Stadium. "I believe we are going to be very successful. We have some unbelievable assets that are going to mean that in the environment that we are heading into, which is challenging for everybody over the next few years, we are going to be very successful," Gazidis told Reuters in an interview. Gazidis, who took over the post last month, will handle player contracts and negotiations at Arsenal. He has played a key role in the emergence of Major League Soccer in the United States over the past 15 years, including bringing David Beckham to the U.S. "We have an incredibly solid fan base, a long waiting list for season tickets. We've got our own stadium that holds 60,000 people, so we are very well positioned in relative terms, but that doesn't mean that we can sail along as if nothing has changed economically because that's unrealistic," Gazidis said. His arrival at Arsenal coincided with a period of transition not only in the economic climate, but also at the north London club. INCONSISTENT FORM On the pitch, manager Arsene Wenger has in recent years nurtured a squad of young players with obvious potential but due to injuries and inconsistent form they have yet to achieve success and have stuttered in the league this season. Off the pitch, former vice-chairman David Dein departed the club in 2007 and this April signals the end of a lockdown agreement of its shares, leaving Arsenal vulnerable to a takeover bid with Russian majority shareholder Alisher Usmanov, who increased his holding to 25 percent earlier this week, thought to be interested. Gazidis is keen to stress that what happens on and off the pitch are two separate entities. "It is very important to this club that it is run on a self-sustaining basis," he said. "What that does is release you from the day-to-day pressures of anything that may be happening at board level. The club effectively functions as a club independent of what ownership changes may take place." Arsenal's 15 million pounds ($21.28 million) signing of Andrei Arshavin on transfer deadline day will do much to assure their fans that they are serious about challenging for future honours, and also gives a clear indication the club are coping in the credit crunch. The club is evidently built on a long-term perspective, a sentiment echoed in a youthful squad and also financially in that Arsenal are on course to own their Emirates Stadium by 2031. NEW FACES While their business model might impress, Arsenal last won the Premier League in 2004 and only the FA Cup since -- in 2005. The club is now challenged by new faces such as Manchester City, owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, as well as improving teams like Champions League contenders Aston Villa. "This club has to be in the Champions League, regardless of the business model. Any year that we are not in it is a major disappointment." "There is always this short-term pressure, which is right and is part of being in football -- we should want to be champions every single year. "I think one of the things we believe is that money isn't the only driver of success on the field," Gazidis added. Gazidis, 44, who was born in South Africa but grew up in England and for a time lived near Highbury, is acutely aware of what Arsenal means to its supporters and the challenge ahead. "It is not just a job. You have the hopes and expectations of not only so many people, but also history. I feel that on my shoulders. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. "If I can walk away someday, hopefully a long time from now, and say I did not let the club down, then I will feel pretty good about myself." ARSENAL FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas Q&A Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas One on One Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright Boy's A Bit Special Theo Walcott, Armand Traore Perfect XI Ian Wright What Happened Next? Gus Caesar, Peter Marinello And Another Thing Being a Big Four fan Plus! Rate Arsenal players (and others) on Talentspotter
19 February 2009
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