Ivan Gazidis meets Arsenal Fans – The Transcript

My relationship with Ivan Gazidis is somewhat doubled edged. I really like him from a human perspective as he comes out as courageous and ever willing to engage irrespective of the atmosphere at the club. I don’t follow a lot of other clubs religiously so I’m not sure if there are specific events held by their Chief Executives to engage with fans but I think Ivan holds at least two every season.  With respect to deals the clubs signs with sponsors, marketing activities, self sustainability, I also think he does a great job as well.

However, his title means he should oversee Arsene Wenger and the footballing aspect of the club as well and I think he falls seriously short in that regard. To be fair to him, this is not helped by Arsene being so iconic at the club and having the direct ear of the majority shareholder. Ivan had one of his sessions with fans and as usual, we got his usual spin, nothing to rock the boat and nothing that we have not heard before. 

Arsenal fan @InvertdWhinger was at the event and I followed the event via periscope on his Twitter feed. One of the joys of the Internet. I also serialized the conversation as much as I could so you can enjoy it below. Forgive any errors. I tried my best to capture exact words as said by the different parties.

The session started with Ivan Gazidis answering questions asked by former Arsenal player Ray Parlour 

Gazidis pointing to FA Cup engravings of Arsenal “We dominate this Trophy”. This (FA Cup) is the iconic trophy. There’s nothing like it.

On last season

The objective of the spending (last season) was to kick on. We went on an unbeaten run of 20 games. I don’t think we were playing beautiful football but we were finding ways to win games. For a variety of reasons we went through a bad patch and we are still analysing it. We are in the mid-seventies on points. Our ambition is to win the Premier League. To do that we need be in the upper eighties and we need to find a way to close that gap.

On Transfers

It’s not just about spending. We’re actively in discussions on a variety of different fronts. We’re not looking for depth.We are looking for players that can play in the starting positions. We are looking for top quality players.

 

On changes in Arsenal

We added a top class high performance person and you would see a lot of changes in the coming weeks. If we look at last 5 years there has been many changes in the football side at Arsenal. We have double our staff. We areon the same level with other clubs with respect to analytics. Psychology is an area where we have invested. We have 3 time more scouts (than 4 years ago). We invested £40m in improvements to London Colney. Our academy is completely being overhauled, top to bottom. We are spending a lot on these areas because we believe to be a world-class football club has to be both world class on and off pitch.

On Arsene Wenger

It was not a sentimental decision. It was a mutual one. The decision was made with an ambition to win the Premier League. I know there are a variety of view points on that subject. When we think about qualities of the manager to take us forward we want someone to represent the club (in the right way), we think of someone who embodies the values of the club. We want someone who has track record and someone who has experience on carrying the weight of the football club. We want someone (as manager) that will play attractive and exciting football, its one of the values of the club. One of the values of the club also is to give young players a chance. Wenger has the qualities that the club would look for when appointing a manager. If you look around the world, there are fantastic managers that want to come and work here. 

On Wenger’s new contract

The decision was made by looking at the ambition of the club to win the Premier League. Board is aware there are those disagree but we have to make the right decision and not the popular decision. 

On Atmosphere at the club

I was at Palace away and it was a miserable time for all at the club.  I am always cautious about making a judgment about desire. Sometimes it’s confidence. When you’re in a negative cycle it’s difficult.

On the players and system

I can’t honestly say the change in system solved the problem. But it did give players something to concentrate on. We lost the handle for 6 or 7 weeks. I give them credit for finding a way back. I don’t believe it’s a lack of desire. 

A few Questions 

Arsenal fan (Richard- Father scored a goal to win Arsenal the FA Cup in the ’50s): I’ve been a supporter for 50+ years. I’m sad to say I have never experienced such a stagnation. The match day experience is the worst I have ever known..(lots of clapping at this point). Something is wrong, we seem to be in a mire and I can see things getting worse.. (lots of people murmur in agreement)

Ivan: That is heartfelt and I am not happy to acknowledge that. Over the last years, we have done a lot of things to push that club forward. The club is run on values and I care about those values. I have been on the football side for over 20 years. I want to deliver to you trophies. I want to deliver to you a sense of pride. There is an enormous amount about this football club to be proud of. Most Arsenal fans are proud of how the club is run. The challenge of standing on our two feet gives us strength. Our success comes from how we can develop the football club. I want the atmosphere at the football club to be united and together. We need people like you to be together. It is the first value we have. It is a real regret that we have not had that togetherness. There are many clubs that will be sitting with three of the last four FA’s cups and would be proud about that.

Arsenal Fan: Asks a question on Usmanov’s rumoured investment of 1.2billion, stating Kroenke is only here to make money. Speaks about our champions league and premier league form. 

Ivan: I have to say I don’t the argument that Stan Kroenke is only here to make money…(lots of people laugh). All Stan has done is support us to make the club successful. Stan Kroenke doesn’t get a revenue stream out of the club. Stan wants to raise the value of the club and his ambition is to be successful. He hasn’t put debt on the football club. He has been supportive. He is the guy who wanted us to go out and spend the money from the new commercial deals..makes some reference to Alexis Sanchez. On the fee Stan takes out, Stan’s company is one of the best in the world with respect to digital media, sports marketing, sponsorships etc, we have been using the services of the company. We use the services of that company and why wouldn’t we. Stan Kroenke never asked for payment. We had an arrangement that they would be providing us services year after year and good governance requires that we pay for such services. Our Chairman, who is a stickler for good governance insisted that we pay for their services and we did that. Stan was not happy about the backlash on the payment, he waived the fees and the company would provide the services to Arsenal for nothing. 

On the fee Stan takes out, Stan’s company is one of the best in the world with respect to digital media, sports marketing, sponsorships etc, we have been using the services of the company. We use the services of that company and why wouldn’t we. Stan Kroenke never asked for payment. We had an arrangement that they would be providing us services year after year and good governance requires that we pay for such services. Our Chairman, who is a stickler for good governance insisted that we pay for their services and we did that. Stan was not happy about the backlash on the payment, he waived the fees and the company would provide the services to Arsenal for nothing. 

There may be people that want to have an oligarch at the club and I understand for some people that is an attractive solution. I continue to believe that we can be stronger pushing the club in the manner we have been pushing it and no one has ever held this football club back. Stan has been supportive in every way he can in terms of reinvesting all the money the club generates back into the football stadium. All our conversations are about winning the Premier League. If you think its all about money, there are far more easier investments in sports clubs. The best way to make money is to have this football club more successful. 

Arsenal Fan (Perry) – Refers to an article written about Arsenal fans being up in arms. You are going to hear a lot of criticism tonight because there is a lot of frustration. But there are also fans who think very warmly and praise the way the club is run and the managership of Arsene Wenger (lots of people clap). I personally do not like the way he is mocked and derided. (lots of clapping again). There are people here picking words with care who have resorted to vulgar language on social media. Wenger should be subject to constructive criticism. Wenger could have gone to any top club. He said no, I am going to stay here. I have tremendous belief in Arsene Wenger and we ended the season on a high. He finally gets to his question…..why only two years, why not three. 

Ivan – If you ask me to describe what I think of the season, honestly, I think there were some amazing moments. Thirteen FA Cups is something I am proud of. I know there is a conflicting mix of feelings. We all want to win the Premier League. All of us want the same thing. We may have differences about decisions we make, but we are going to be stronger together rather than shouting at each other going into a new season. If we want success, I beg you, please, let’s come together and give this team the support I believe they deserve. 

Arsenal Fan – I will like to thank you for hosting this evening. I think the problem and the hostility you might face this evening stems from something between a lack of connection between the fans (who you can cut in half and bleed Arsenal ) and the board. (I really didn’t hear it clearly)

Ivan – I am aware of that. I will tell you that one of the challenges that I could be having is. It is extraordinarily unusual that a new owner will come in and not keep the board who have more association. Goes on to list people who have been associated with Arsenal their who lives. I think the Arsenal board needs to be refreshed and I do listen to those comments and I take them seriously. 

Arsenal Fan: Can you tell us hand in heart that the manager received unanimous support from the board of directors before and after the decision to give him a new contract?

Ivan: The way that they contract decision was made was really intricate. The Chairman made a statement during the season that it was going to be a mutual decision. On Arsene’s side and on the board side it was important that we both were aligned on the future of the club and that required some quite detailed conversations. I have never spoken about board discussions and I don’t intend to do that now, but I will say the board acts with unity. The board is 100% doing what it can to make sure this decision will be successful. When we come out of meetings we are aligned. Our agenda is what is good for this football club.

Arsenal Fan: Should the decision have been made sooner?

Ivan: That is an interesting question. I think we all both board and Arsene wanted to take the right time to really think about the right decision. It could have been made sooner, but we wanted to do it maturely and with the right amount of reflection. I think was it the exact right time? I don’t know how to answer that, all I can tell you is, that is the time that it took. 

Someone asked a question about reserve football and why fans need to pay for it. 

Hope you enjoyed the read, you can watch it here https://www.pscp.tv/w/1vOxwvykBMoJB

Give us a follow on twitter on @canoncrested. 

 




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