It may come as a surprise to some, but Ivan Gazidis has been Arsenal’s Chief Executive for less than 10 years.
In November 2008 Gazidis accepted the post of chief executive of Arsenal, a post he formally took up from 1 January 2009. He succeeded former managing director Keith Edelman.
South-African born Gazidis moved to Manchester at the age of 4. He attended St Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford, where he was twice awarded a blue playing football against the University of Cambridge in 1984 and 1985
He graduated with a degree in law in 1986 and in 1992 he moved to the United States to work.
In 1994, he joined the founding management team of Major League Soccer, becoming in 2001 its deputy commissioner. He oversaw MLS’s key strategic and business decisions and its marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, of which he was president.
Many fans have been justifiably critical of Gazidis’ role at Arsenal. His arrival was in the middle of the trophy drought, and with Arsene Wenger keeping an iron grip of control, many questioned what he actually did at the club.
Some of the criticism was unfair.
Many saw him as Stan Kroenke’s crony. They labelled him a “yank who knew nothing about football”.
That last comment probably showed how little people knew about him. As we have seen he was born in South Africa (not America), grew up in Manchester (supporting Manchester City as a child) and spent 15 years working the MLS before joining Arsenal.
With the recent AC Milan interest, and everything that has happened at Arsenal in the last 12 months, it is worthwhile stepping back and taking stock.
Whilst Arsene Wenger was at the club, there were constantly two schools of thought.
The first was that Wenger restricted Gazidis. That he could not flourish. There were reports he wanted Wenger gone a year or so ago and was talking to replacements, but the Kroenke’s put a stop to this by offering the Frenchman a new deal.
Whilst there were others that saw him as part of a problem. As a sheep. Doing whatever Kroenke or Wenger demanded, and protecting them.
The truth was probably somewhere in the middle.
During his time at Arsenal, we have seen ticket price rises. £126 for a top end “normal” ticket is way too much.
But he has also overseen a discount to away fans; not just the £30 Premier League cap but a further £4 per game deduction. He has also kept League Cup game costs to a minimum.
Whilst our Category A tickets are extortionate, our Category C tickets are very good – you can watch Arsenal play in the Premier League for less than you can watch Leyton Orient in the Conference.
With Gazidis, it always feels like he gives with one hand, takes with the other. He would probably make a good Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer.
He has also overseen a period at the club where we sold our best players, targeted top 4 rather than trophies, and was more interested in net spend than success. Although in more recent years the wallet has opened a bit more – with us breaking our transfer record twice in 6 months.
Gazidis’ background is commercial activity.
Under Wenger, it was a simple set up. Arsene ran the football side, Gazidis the revenue and commercial side of things.
As a commercial executive he has struggled.
A lot of the deals signed whilst at Arsenal have been average. Often record deals at the time, they are quickly gazumped by other sides, ultimately making the deals look poor.
The commercial revenue has held us back over the last 5 or 6 years, and we are still too reliant on stadium income, hence the high ticket prices.
We currently lag a long behind Manchester United in terms of commercial revenue. £161m a year to be exact. To bring this into perspective, this gap is larger than Arsenal’s entire match day revenue.
In terms of signing new players, £161m is the difference between 2 or 3 £50m+.
Since Gazidis’ arrival, and prior to this summer, Manchester United have had a net spend of £475m. Arsenal just £150m.
How much more could Arsenal have achieved over the last 9 years had we had an additional £325m to spend on players?
Our poor commercial activity has held us back, and Gazidis has to take the blame.
For Arsenal to become competitive again, we need to close the commercial gap on those above us, starting with the new kit supplier deal where there is a £45m difference between us and man U, and a £30 difference between us and Chelsea.
The feeling from many fans is that Gazidis is doing a better job these days than previously. this go’s hand in hand with the positive surrounding the club.
Gazidis moved himself from Highbury House to the training ground, and he was him who became executioner for Wenger. It was also Gazidis who oversaw the recruitment of Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanhelli.
This summer, he oversaw significant personnel changes at the top of the club in preparation for then manager Arsene Wenger’s departure, the backroom staff changes and the recruitment of Unai Emery.
Having got to the top of the Arsenal tree, he is now king maker. He lives and dies on his own sword.
it is for that reason was surprised with the AC Milan news. He pushed for the changes at Arsenal, it did not make sense for him to leave after his ideas have finally been implemented.
Ultimately, Gazidis’ is now on a clean slate.
With Wenger gone, he can start again, draw a line in the sand. His future is now determined by himself.
He leads us back to glory, people will talk about him in the same vain as David Dein. He continues with poor commercial deals which in turn leads to poor performances on the field, the whispers of what he does will circulate again.
The next 2 or 3 years will be how Gazidis is judged.