Gazidis predicts 'bright' Arsenal future

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The Independent Football

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis maintains the board will continue to back manager Arsene Wenger in the transfer market.

And Gazidis believes Arsenal are well positioned to ride out the current uncertain financial climate.

The Barclays Premier League club today announced pre-tax profits for the six months ended November 30 2008 were £24.5m, up from £20m, with increased contributions from both the football and property aspects of the Gunners' parent holding company.

However, the redevelopment of the club's old Highbury stadium could present some challenges ahead given the economic downturn, as Arsenal look to re-finance the terms of their loan for the project.

Nevertheless, Gazidis insists the Gunners remain on a solid footing, with an increase of match-day turnover up £3.3m to £44.4m, while broadcasting revenues increased to £28.9million and overall pre-tax profit was up £600,000 from 2007.

Arsenal - who funded the move to the Emirates Stadium with a 23-year loan at a fixed interest rate - have always sought to keep their property and football businesses separate.

Gazidis is confident matters on the field should not be adversely affected by any outside influences as Wenger, who brought in Russia international Andrei Arshavin on deadline day for a reported £15m fee, looks to continue his team building plans in the summer.

"If Arsene believes that there are players out there who can help the squad, the board is always behind him, but don't forget we believe in the young players we have," he said.

"When you look at the ages of the players we are putting out on the field and their level of performance, the next two or three years will look very bright indeed."

Off the field, Gazidis maintains Arsenal's self-sustaining model is robust.

"We have achieved a half-year pre-tax profit of £24.5m, which in this environment is very solid," he said.

"I think the industry as a whole will be affected in the medium to long term. Fortunately at Arsenal, we are very well positioned and our key sponsorship contracts are long-term agreements which fix our revenue there."

Gazidis stressed the plans to refinance the development loan for Highbury Square - the apartments and penthouses being built at the club's former stadium - should not be seen as a major concern.

"The key thing to remind ourselves about Highbury Square is that it is ring-fenced from the football club," he said.

"We still believe we will be able to generate a profit on the development that will be ultimately available to the football club.

"The question is the timing of that profit, when it will be realised and how much it will be.

"In the current downturn, it makes sense for us to look at options to extend that out a little bit so that we can maximise results at Highbury Square."

Arsenal are currently outside the top four of the Premier League, and so face a battle to secure Champions League football again next season.

Gazidis, though, maintained failure to do so would not prove a fatal blow to the club's long-term financial outlook.

"While we would rather be in the Champions League for a wide variety of reasons, if we were to miss out we will be very solidly positioned to invest prudently to come back the following years," he said.

"Because of the way the club is positioned, particularly with Emirates Stadium, and our other long-term contracted revenue streams, the impact is not dramatic."

Gazidis, however, declared: "We are still aiming for a place in the top four, and we think we are going to surprise a lot of pundits out there who are writing off our chances."