Arsenal leave rivals trailing on and off pitch with 54 per cent profit rise

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The Independent Online

Arsenal yesterday maintained their status as London's most profitable club – and arguably its best run, by some margin – by announcing half-year profits of £20.2m (up 54 per cent) in the six months to 30 November. In presenting the figures, Arsenal's chief executive, Keith Edelman, said the club has a cash balance of £69.1m (some or all of which could be used by Arsène Wenger for players in the summer), and suggested Wenger could remain as manager for eight years or more.

The data means Arsenal continue to put Chelsea in the shade off the pitch as well as on it, despite attempts by Chelsea on Thursday to spin their own results to the contrary. While Chelsea had a 2006-07 turnover of £190.5m against Arsenal's £177m on a like-for-like basis, Chelsea made losses of £74.8m. With Roman Abramovich as their benefactor this does not matter. Without him, Chelsea's basket-case economics of the past four years would have left them insolvent.

Edelman chose not to cite Chelsea's ongoing spillage of Abramovich's cash specifically, but said: "I always think that the key is to play good football and make a profit. These are the two key objectives we have.

"Clearly, money is one measure of a business but I think that doubling our profit is proof that the business is very healthy indeed. People can work out for themselves who is the richest or most profitable club or whatever. It's not for us to shout about."

In the half-year figures, Arsenal's broadcasting income rose £6.5m to £24.3m because of the new domestic and overseas TV deals, and match-day income rose to £41.4m. Total half-year revenue dropped to £97m from £100.8m because of a near 70 per cent drop in exceptional property income.

Edelman expects Wenger to remain in charge for the long term. "Just the other day he announced he has a hunger to go on forever," he said. "That's an exaggeration, but I don't think it will be my problem. I've got another seven or eight years [as chief executive] and [Wenger leaving] won't be my worry."

On the subject of persistent takeover speculation, arising from stockpiling by the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov especially (he has 24 per cent of the shares), Edelman said the club was "bullet proof" to a takeover because of a "lockdown" agreement until 2012 by the board, who collectively own 45 per cent of the club.

Edelman also gave support to the Premier League's desire to explore more fully the proposed "international round" of games from 2011 onwards. "I do think a lot of people are making snap comments and not thinking it through strategically," he said. "The fact that we have millions of [overseas] fans, millions more offshore than in the UK, that is the germ of the intent – to give those fans more than a televised product."

For today's lunchtime match at Birmingham, Arsenal are missing Kolo Touré with a calf problem but Emmanuel Adebayor and Alexander Hleb return.

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