AST meet Ivan Gazidis the hypnotist!

Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s Chief Exec of four months standing is a class act, for during 75 minutes at the Arsenal Supporters Trust, he waxed lyrical about his childhood and how having to flee South Africa due to his father being a member of the then banned ANC, he relocated to Scotland and from there travelled around the UK, playing football and eventually becoming a law student in North London. He had a quick turn of wit and humour which I found quite disarming, however there was also in evidence a man who knows the art of professional presentation. In four months he had become evangelical to use his words about Arsenal Football Club. Now I love Arsenal with a passion, but I have found nothing associated with turmoil suffered by the club over the last four months that would make me give up everything and follow Peter Hill-Wood to the promised land, barefoot dressed in only a loin cloth.
Perhaps what I liked was his ability to remind us of those values that we all admire about the club, he managed to sidestep the obvious parodoxes and contradictions that have bedevilled the various spokesmen and in essence Ivan Gazidis had a very simple message. Self sustaining efficiency would in time reap the rewards that we all craved. From the possibility of added capital from the Estates Division (not a area that he would have entered into) to rejecting a cash injection from a major investor. The Club had enormous potential and the foundations were very secure, and he subscribed wholeheartedly to the Self Sustaining model.
He spoke of ambition and the fact that disappointment was a good emotion at the moment, because that indicated we cared deeply for the Club. Well, on that indicator most Gooners have been virtually infatuated with Arsenal given the magnitude of disappointment that we have suffered over the last two seasons. He also hinted that he had a clear plan to take the club onto the next level. This would require the recruitment of additional managerial/executive support. From a Strategic brainstormer to a lawyer. He described the use of the current Law Firm as almost an extravagance. Like using a Rolls Royce to collect a Pizza rather than a Mini car. “Not environmentally friendly” This is a bold but necessary move if an enterprise as big as Arsenal Football Club is to be managed well.
He alluded that soon he and Arsene Wenger would sit down and discuss the “Player Pool”, not a throw back to the MLS I presume, just a euphemism for first team squad and mediocre hangers on. He was careful not to portray Arsene Wenger as either stubborn or uncaring. In fact he suggested the opposite, by indicating that Arsene was looking after the interests of the Club for the future 5 or so years, rather than just next season. Arsene was described as being very open and one who discussed many things with those around him, but he conceded that any change to the back room staff would be bound to fail without the consent of Arsene Wenger. He said that the 6+5 rule of UEFA could not be imposed as it was simply “Illegal” and he could not predict the fortunes of the Premier league as it tried to become the only really Global Sports franchise.
There were various questions put to him, and he answered them all as an astute politician. He was careful to show empathy whilst at the same time delivering exactly the same message that we have heard from his predecessors. His manner would ensure that no mischief could be written by the media just yet, despite the efforts of Sky Sports News, who hovered around the media entrance like some love sick groupie waiting for some affection from the main act. I was interviewed by this solitary camera and interviewer who face was as memorable as that of my milkman, and I haven’t seen him in ten years. In Short, Ivan Gazidis accomplished his mission. To thank the faithful for their support, listen to the polite complaints and in return pledge nothing but hard work and success in the future.
Did I learn anything new? Frankly not much. The most welcoming fact was that unlike last years’ meeting with Ken Friar, the talk of share dividends is definitely off the agenda and rightly so. He also made clear that whilst Arsene Wenger was at the helm, the club would not be globetrotting pre-season. He reassured us about the healthy waiting lists in Club Level and for the Executive Boxes. He finally admitted that there were difficult negotiations being had with the banks over the defaulting or delayed rate of apartment completions in Highbury Square. Elsewhere in the Estates portfolio, Queensland Road would not be developed in it’s entirety yet due to the prevailing economic climate.
There were fascinating insights into other football leagues and how the German and Swedish leagues were the only leagues making money based upon clear regulation of spending and assets, despite being smaller in turnover to the unregulated Premier League. He agreed with me that investing in a major football club like Arsenal in the Premier league was hardly logical, given the absence of share dividends and was not going to provide the gateway to vast riches. Profits were to be had more so by the association with a global brand and the piggy backing upon of marketing opportunities in the markets that bought this product.
He finished to a loud round of applause mission accomplished. Whilst most of us in the media centre look around at each other wondering how he had managed to embarrass us into silence. There had been few awkward questions, no aggression, no embarrassing moments. Some members sat stupefied in their seats almost wondering if Ivan Gazidis was in fact a very slick hypnotist who had put everyone into a trance with the wave of those magnificently manicured hands. So it was that we left that evening, nothing new to report and with the same message as last year. Wait and see, the best is yet to come.
Fabregas the King.

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