Gazidis attracted by 'unique' Arsenal

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New Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis maintains the "unique" structure of the club made them the only destination for which he would have left his role as Major League Soccer deputy commissioner.

The 44-year-old South Africa-born Oxford graduate will take up his new post in January after a 14-year association with the American organisation he helped establish as the Gunners long search for Keith Edelman's replacement comes to an end.

Gazidis - a qualified solicitor who formerly lived a stone's throw from Highbury - describes himself as a "football guy".

During his time in the MLS, Gazidis oversaw all negotiations for players' central contracts and is expected to take over many of the duties previously handled by former vice-chairman David Dein, working closely with manager Arsene Wenger.

Gazidis said the lure of Arsenal - the last of the Barclays Premier League big four to remain in British ownership - was too good an opportunity to turn down.

"Arsenal are a unique club in the world, a very historic club which carries a rich tradition, and for me there was not another opportunity I would look at which could possibly be as exciting as this one," Gazidis told the club's official website, www.arsenal.com.

"In modern sport, business plays its part and it is important that, to be successful on the pitch, you are successful off it as well.

"The great thing about Arsenal, which makes it unique, is the club has been run to sustain itself, it is not dependant on an outside investor to continue to pump money in year after year."

The Gunners already had a link-up with MLS team Colorado Rapids and their owner Stan Kroenke, a major shareholder in the Gunners, is now a non-executive director of the board.

However, Gazidis insists that progress will not see the 'Disneyfication' of Arsenal at the cost of the club's traditions.

"It is essential to have really good knowledge of the world of sports business, but I strongly believe that sport is not only a business, there is also an element of public trust, and as an executive in a sports business, you have a custodian's role," he added.

"This is not going to be an American coming in with no understanding of Arsenal looking to make it into a 'Disneyfied' version of Arsenal Football Club.

"This is an Englishman who grew up with the game, has a deep understanding of Arsenal Football Club, and is certainly looking to provide modern sports business practices, but at the same time providing custodianship for the traditions of the club for the benefit of the entire club, and most importantly for the fans, on whom all of this rests."

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood is in no doubt they have found the right man for the job.

"It was a very long and difficult search. We wanted a good person to manage the club on the business side and a man with football experience was important, Ivan certainly fills that gap for us very well," Hill-Wood told Arsenal TV Online.

"He will work with Arsene Wenger on transfers. Arsene finds the players he wants to bring into the squad and Ivan will handle all the financial and technical side of player transfers.

"We all had lunch together a couple of weeks ago so the two of them could meet and it was important that Arsene Wenger liked him and respected his judgment."

The arrival of Gazidis was welcomed by Gunners fans as a "vital appointment".

A statement from the Arsenal Supporters' Trust released to the Press Association read: "His experience of international sports marketing should help the club to grow its income stream and we also note his experience in managing player contracts, a skill set we hope he will soon put to use at Arsenal."

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