Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Arsenal boss upbeat on English football's future

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Soccerex, Manchester

Ivan Gazidis
Mr Gazidis admires the payment structure of the MLS

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said he is upbeat about the future of English football, despite the recent travails of some clubs.

The former deputy commissioner of Major League Soccer in the US took the helm at the Emirates in November 2008.

"I am optimistic," he said. "This is an industry with extraordinary potential for growth, even in the current economic environment."

But he did concede that there were certain issues that needed addressing.

"I don't think football is in crisis - a crisis would have no way forward. We can see the way forward," he said.

However, he pointed to differences in business values to those in the US - including the way money is shared out among clubs on a more equitable basis in US soccer.

'Common goals'

"There are some interesting differences, because the game has grown organically in the UK through competition that has a history. As a result, we find clubs competing with each other on the field and also off it," Mr Gazidis said.

"In the US, there is a recognition that the actions of one affect everyone else, and the pressures can be difficult to resist.

"Owners have come together and said 'we need to protect ourselves', so they are very collaborative off the field of play.

"I am hopeful we will see the spirit that football is coming together, that clubs can work together towards common goals. Partnership off the field is the only thing that can keep this sport stable."

'Stronger competition'

Working in partnerships rather than solely being driven to make money would help English football "attract sensible people who are currently on the sidelines, wondering why they should get involved", he argued.

And Mr Gazidis backed the moves by Uefa and the European Clubs Association to draw up new financial guidelines for football clubs to prevent reckless spending and debt.

"I don't think the purpose here is to prevent equity investment into the game, but… to create an environment where more strong investors can get involved in the game."

He also said clubs should be encouraged to spend more on youth development and infrastructure, rather than on inflated player salaries and agents.

"That will ultimately create a stronger competition," he stated.

And he remained upbeat on the future attraction of the Premier League globally.

"We are seeing international revenues growing year on year… for example broadcasting rights, but that revenue has to be used wisely.

"The Premier League is now able to drive a product that is exciting and vibrant to people around the world.

"But we have to go back to values, and none of these things can happen without all the stakeholders being involved."

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