Arsenal focused on football after record profit

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood insists results on the pitch will always come ahead of profit at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners' parent holding company today revealed an increase in turnover to £313.3million and a record profit after tax of £35.2million from results for the year ending May 31.

The Highbury Square development, meanwhile, remains robust despite the difficult financial climate and falling house prices, with the completion of 208 private apartments at the club's former ground bringing in £88million.

Most of Arsenal's overall net debt, which has decreased to £297.7million from £318million, is tied into the move to the 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, financed mainly by a long-term loan which is repaid at a fixed rate, much like a mortgage, at around £20million a year.

As such, Arsene Wenger's men are clearly under some pressure to continue to produce on the field - with Champions League qualification now arguably a prerequisite each season.

Wenger has, though, so far refused to spend heavily in new players, instead placing faith in youth and re-signing key men like captain Cesc Fabregas, England forward Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie, last season's leading scorer, on long-term deals.

Nevertheless, despite relative progress with a Champions League final appearance in 2006, Arsenal have failed to deliver a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.

Life-long Gunners fan Hill-Wood knows all too well the importance of consistency on the pitch, which ultimately drives all other parts of the business.

"The group's profits have now risen in each of the three years in which Emirates Stadium has been our home. This is excellent news, although I should perhaps stress that making and reporting profits is not in itself the primary objective for the directors," Hill-Wood said in his report.

"First and foremost we are supporters of this great football club and, as such, our main goal will always be the achievement of success for Arsenal on the field.

"The group's profitability is important because it is a by-product of running the club as a solvent and successful business, which in turn allows us to maximise the level of investment in the playing staff and in the future development of the club."

Hill-Wood added: "Arsene has the resources to bring more players in, if he believes doing so will add to the quality which we already have in the squad."

Much has been made of whether Arsenal should accept being bankrolled by outside investment, as all of their top-four rivals, which now include cash-rich Manchester City, have done.

Indeed, City raided the Emirates Stadium for both striker Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure this summer, while Wenger opted to bring in just Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax for £10million, leaving him with a healthy surplus.

Earlier this year, the Arsenal board decided against a proposed rights issue to generate new cash which was put forward and underwritten by the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, the second biggest stakeholder in the Barclays Premier League club.

Usmanov - whose Red & White Holdings group have a stake of around 25% - had argued the scheme would help to reduce both the long-term debt and also hand Wenger extra transfer funds.

Arsenal also have Stan Kroenke as a non-executive director.

The American is entrepreneur now the club's largest individual shareholder, but just short of the 30% threshold which would, under City rules, trigger an automatic formal takeover bid.

Hill-Wood felt a new rights issue just to help buy players would be "at odds with our ethos".

The Arsenal chairman said: "In the final analysis I believe it distils down to a decision about whether it is appropriate to raise money from shareholders to purchase the registrations and pay the wages of footballers.

"This is not something that Arsenal has ever done previously in its history and it would be at odds with our ethos of running the club as a business which is self-sustaining and pays its own way in the world."

The Arsenal Supporters Trust welcomed the positive figures and hoped any surplus funds would be ploughed back into the side.

A statement read: "The AST is reassured by the significant progress made with the Highbury Square property development that removes concerns about the club's immediate financial health.

"These results demonstrate that the clubs 'self-sustaining' business model remains viable.

"We genuinely believe that funds generated from player sales this summer are available to the manager for strengthening the team if he so chooses.

"In these difficult economic times, and when many other clubs are increasing their debt exposure or struggling to service existing debt, we welcome the continuing fall in the debt levels at Arsenal."

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